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'Task based language teaching' - nunan david 'Task based language teaching' - nunan david Document Transcript

  • Task-Based LanguageTeaching
  • C A M B R I D G E L A N G U A G E T E A C H I N G L I B R A RYA series covering central issues in language teaching and learning, by authors whohave expert knowledge in their field.In this series:Affect in Language Learning edited by Jane ArnoldApproaches and Methods in Language Teaching second edition by Jack C. Richards and Theodore S. RodgersBeyond Training by Jack C. RichardsClassroom Decision-Making edited by Michael Breen and Andrew LittlejohnCollaborative Action Research for English Language Teachers by Anne BurnsCollaborative Language Learning and Teaching edited by David NunanCommunicative Language Teaching by William LittlewoodDeveloping Reading Skills by Françoise GrelletDevelopments in English for Specific Purposes by Tony Dudley-Evans and Maggie Jo St JohnDiscourse Analysis for Language Teachers by Michael McCarthyDiscourse and Language Education by Evelyn HatchThe Dynamics of the Language Classroom by Ian TudorEnglish for Academic Purposes by R. R. JordanEnglish for Specific Purposes by Tom Hutchinson and Alan WatersEstablishing Self-Access by David Gardner and Lindsay MillerForeign and Second Language Learning by William LittlewoodGroup Dynamics in the Language Classroom by Zoltán Dörnyei and Tim MurpheyLanguage Learning in Distance Education by Cynthia WhiteLanguage Learning in Intercultural Perspective edited by Michael Byram and Michael FlemingThe Language Teaching Matrix by Jack C. RichardsLanguage Test Construction and Evaluation by J. Charles Alderson, Caroline Clapham and Dianne WallLearner-Centredness as Language Education by Ian TudorManaging Curricular Innovation by Numa MarkeeMaterials Development in Language Teaching edited by Brian TomlinsonMotivational Strategies in the Language Classroom by Zoltán DörnyeiPsychology for Language Teachers by Marion Williams and Robert L. BurdenResearch Methods in Language Learning by David NunanRules, Patterns and Words: Grammar and Lexis in English Language Teaching by Dave WillisSecond Language Teacher Education edited by Jack C. Richards and David NunanSociety and the Language Classroom edited by Hywel ColemanTeaching Languages to Young Learners by Lynne CameronTeacher Learning in Language Teaching edited by Donald Freeman and Jack C. RichardsTesting for Language Teachers second edition by Arthur HughesUnderstanding Research in Second Language Learning by James Dean BrownUsing Surveys in Language Programs by James Dean BownVocabulary: Description, Acquisition and Pedagogy edited by Norbert Schmitt and Michael McCarthyVocabulary, Semantics and Language Education by Evelyn Hatch and Cheryl BrownVoices from the Language Classroom edited by Kathleen M. Bailey and David Nunan
  • Task-Based LanguageTeachingDavid NunanUniversity of Hong Kong
  • CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY PRESSCambridge, New York, Melbourne, Madrid, Cape Town, Singapore, São PauloCambridge University PressThe Edinburgh Building, Cambridge CB2 8RU, UKPublished in the United States of America by Cambridge University Press, New Yorkwww.cambridge.orgInformation on this title: www.cambridge.org/9780521840170© Cambridge University Press 2004This publication is in copyright. Subject to statutory exception and to theprovision of relevant collective licensing agreements, no reproduction of any partmay take place without the written permission of Cambridge University Press.First published in print format 2004ISBN-13 978-0-511-66733-6 OCeISBNISBN-13 978-0-521-84017-0 hardbackISBN-13 978-0-521-54947-9 paperbackCambridge University Press has no responsibility for the persistence or accuracyof urls for external or third-party internet websites referred to in this publication,and does not guarantee that any content on such websites is, or will remain,accurate or appropriate.
  • Designing Tasks was dedicated to my young daughters Jenny and Rebecca.This work is dedicated to my grown-up daughters, Jenny and Rebecca.
  • ContentsAcknowledgements xiIntroduction xiiiChapter 1 What is task-based language teaching? Introduction and overview 1 Defining ‘task’ 1 Broader curricular consideration 4 Communicative language teaching 6 Alternative approaches to syllabus design 10 Experiential learning 12 Policy and practice 13 The role of the learner 14 Conclusion 16 References 16Chapter 2 A framework for task-based language teaching Introduction and overview 19 A framework for task-based language teaching 19 Syllabus design considerations 25 Developing units of work 31 Seven principles for task-based language teaching 35 Conclusion 38 References 38Chapter 3 Task components Introduction and overview 40 Goals 41 Input 47 Procedures 52 Task types 56 Teacher and learner roles 64 Settings 70 Conclusion 73 References 73 vii
  • ContentsChapter 4 An empirical basis for task-based language teaching Introduction and overview 76 Early psycholinguistic models 76 Interaction, output and the negotiation of meaning 79 Task difficulty 85 Conclusion 90 References 91Chapter 5 Focus on form in task-based language teaching Introduction and overview 93 Theoretical and empirical issues 93 Focused versus unfocused tasks 94 Consciousness-raising tasks 98 Procedural language 100 The place of a focus on form in an instructional sequence 101 Focus on form in the communicative classroom 103 Conclusion 111 References 112Chapter 6 Grading, sequencing and integrating tasks Introduction and overview 113 Grading input 114 Learner factors 118 Procedural factors 122 Task continuity 125 Within-task sequencing: the information gap 128 Topic-based / theme-based instruction 131 Content-based instruction 131 Project-based instruction 133 Conclusion 135 References 136Chapter 7 Assessing task-based language teaching Introduction and overview 138 Key concepts in assessment 138 The purposes of assessment 147 Self-assessment 149 Techniques for collecting assessment data 153 Criteria for assessing learner performance 161 Conclusion 164 References 164viii
  • ContentsChapter 8 Tasks and teacher development Introduction and overview 166 The self-directed teacher 166 An in-service workshop 168 Evaluating tasks 173 Creating tasks 175 Conclusion 177 Postscript 177 References 179Appendix A Approaches and methods – an overview 181Appendix B A unit of work based on the six-step procedure presented in Chapter 2 187Appendix C A unit of work based on the task/exercise typology in Chapter 5 195Appendix D Graded activities for the four macroskills 202Appendix E Common reference levels: self-assessment grid 210Glossary 212Index 218 ix
  • AcknowledgementsThanks to Mickey Bonin, who first encouraged me to take on thisproject, and to Alison Sharpe and Jane Walsh for their editorial guidance.Particular thanks to the anonymous reviewers of an earlier draft of thisbook who provided many insightful criticisms and suggestions. Needlessto say, remaining shortcomings are mine alone. xi
  • IntroductionThe purpose of the bookThis book began life as the second edition to Designing Tasks for theCommunicative Classroom. The original volume was written in the mid-1980s, and was published in 1989. At that time, task-based languageteaching was beginning to arouse attention. Although it was more thana distant prospect, it was far from a mainstream concept. As with theoriginal book, this volume is aimed at practising teachers in ELT andapplied linguists (teacher trainers, language planners, and materialswriters), as well as teachers in preparation. When I began working on this volume, I quickly realized how far thefield had come. It was brought home to me that I was embarking on thecreation not of a second edition but of a completely new book, and thatin consequence it deserved a new title. Recently, I completed a study into the impact on policies and practicesof the emergence of English as a global language (Nunan 2002, 2003).Data were collected from a range of countries in the Asia-Pacific regionincluding Japan, Vietnam, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Korea andMalaysia. In interviews with teachers, teacher educators and ministryofficials, and from a study of curriculum guidelines and syllabuses, ‘task-based language teaching’ emerged as a central concept. At the same time,I was involved in preparing a publication proposal for China on behalfof a commercial publisher. I was given a reasonable degree of latitude inputting the proposal together, but was informed that in order to be con-sidered by the Ministry of Education it had to contain ‘task-based lan-guage teaching’ as its ruling rubric. These two anecdotes illustrate the extent to which the concept hasmoved to the centre ground, rhetorically at least. However, it still has along way to go to become rooted in classroom practice. In workshopsand seminars in different parts of the world, I am constantly asked byteachers, ‘What is task-based language teaching, and how do I make itwork?’ This book is an attempt to answer both parts of that question.As with Designing Tasks, the purpose of the book is to provide teacherswith a practical introduction to task-based language teaching along withthe theoretical and empirical bases that support it. xiii
  • Introduction In addition to a complete revamping and updating of principles andideas from Designing Tasks, I felt four areas deserved their own chapter-length treatment. These were:• A model for task-based language teaching (TBLT) that articulated the relationship between tasks and other curricular elements.• The empirical basis for TBLT.• The place of a focus on form in TBLT.• Assessing TBLT.In order to accommodate these new chapters, chapters in the originalbook had to be dropped, condensed or otherwise rearranged. The struc-ture of the present book is described below.The structure of the bookChapter 1 defines the notion of ‘task’ and illustrates the ways in whichit will be used. The relationship between task-based language teachingand communicative language teaching is discussed and set within abroader curriculum framework. Ideological assumptions about thenature of language pedagogy inherent in TBLT are also discussed. In thefinal part of the chapter I look at the impact of the concept of TBLT onboth the learner and on institutional policy and practice. The first section of Chapter 2 introduces a framework for TBLT. Theframework defines and exemplifies the key elements in the model thatunderlies the rest of the book. The sections that follow outline a proce-dure for creating an integrated syllabus around the concept of the peda-gogic task and discuss issues of lesson planning and materials design. Thefinal section summarises the key principles underpinning TBLT. Chapter 3 looks at the key elements that constitute a task, namely, taskgoals, input and procedures. The chapter also deals with teacher andlearner roles as well as the settings for TBLT. One notable aspect of TBLT has been an explosion in the amount ofresearch stimulated by the subject. The purpose of Chapter 4 is toprovide a summary of this research. One area of particular interest is thatof task difficulty. The research covered here provides a basis for the sub-sequent discussion of task grading. The place of a focus on form in TBLT remains controversial. InChapter 5, I examine the nature of the controversy, and spell out whereI see a focus on form fitting in to a task-based instructional cycle. Chapter 6 looks at issues and difficulties associated with the gradingof tasks as well as at options for sequencing and integrating tasks intolessons or units of work. This chapter contains updated material fromxiv
  • IntroductionChapters 5 and 6 of the original volume, as well as a considerableamount of new content. Task-based language teaching presents challenges in all areas of thecurriculum. This is particularly true for assessment, which is comingunder increasing scrutiny as it is realized that TBLT cannot be assessedaccording to traditional methods. In Chapter 7, I look at key concepts,issues and controversies in assessment and relate these to TBLT. Chapter 8 is devoted to tasks and teacher development. The purposeof this chapter is to look at task construction and evaluation from theperspective of the teacher, and to provide suggestions for introducingtasks in teacher development workshops.ReferencesNunan, D. 2002. English as a global language: Counting the cost. Featured pres- entation, TESOL International Convention, Salt Lake City, March 2002.Nunan, D. 2003. The impact of English as a global language on educational policies and practices in the Asia-Pacific region. TESOL Quarterly, 37, 4, Winter 2003. xv
  • 1 What is task-based language teaching?Introduction and overviewThe concept of ‘task’ has become an important element in syllabusdesign, classroom teaching and learner assessment. It underpins severalsignificant research agendas, and it has influenced educational policy-making in both ESL and EFL settings. Pedagogically, task-based language teaching has strengthened the fol-lowing principles and practices:• A needs-based approach to content selection.• An emphasis on learning to communicate through interaction in the target language.• The introduction of authentic texts into the learning situation.• The provision of opportunities for learners to focus not only on lan- guage but also on the learning process itself.• An enhancement of the learner’s own personal experiences as impor- tant contributing elements to classroom learning.• The linking of classroom language learning with language use outside the classroom.In this chapter, I will map out the terrain for the rest of the book. I willfirstly define ‘task’ and illustrate the ways in which it will be used. I willthen relate it to communicative language teaching and set it within abroader curriculum framework, as well as spelling out the assumptionsabout pedagogy drawn on by the concept. In the final part of the chapterI will look at the impact of the concept on the learner, on one hand, andon institutional policy and practice on the other.Defining ‘task’Before doing anything else, I need to define the central concept behindthis book. In doing so, I will draw a basic distinction between what I willcall real-world or target tasks, and pedagogical tasks: target tasks, as thename implies, refer to uses of language in the world beyond the class-room; pedagogical tasks are those that occur in the classroom. 1
  • What is task-based language teaching? Long (1985: 89) frames his approach to task-based language teachingin terms of target tasks, arguing that a target task is: a piece of work undertaken for oneself or for others, freely or for some reward. Thus examples of tasks include painting a fence, dressing a child, filling out a form, buying a pair of shoes, making an airline reservation, borrowing a library book, taking a driving test, typing a letter, weighing a patient, sorting letters, making a hotel reservation, writing a cheque, finding a street destination and helping someone across a road. In other words, by ‘task’ is meant the hundred and one things people do in everyday life, at work, at play and in between.The first thing to notice about this definition is that it is non-technicaland non-linguistic. It describes the sorts of things that the person in thestreet would say if asked what they were doing. (In the same way aslearners, if asked why they are attending a Spanish course, are morelikely to say, ‘So I can make hotel reservations and buy food when I’m inMexico,’ than ‘So I can master the subjunctive.’) Related to this is thenotion that, in contrast with most classroom language exercises, taskshave a non-linguistic outcome. Non-linguistic outcomes from Long’s listabove might include a painted fence, possession – however temporary –of a book, a driver’s licence, a room in a hotel, etc. Another thing tonotice is that some of the examples provided may not involve languageuse at all (it is possible to paint a fence without talking). Finally, individ-ual tasks may be part of a larger sequence of tasks; for example the taskof weighing a patient may be a sub-component of the task ‘giving amedical examination’. When they are transformed from the real world to the classroom, tasksbecome pedagogical in nature. Here is a definition of a pedagogical task: . . . an activity or action which is carried out as the result of processing or understanding language (i.e. as a response). For example, drawing a map while listening to a tape, listening to an instruction and performing a command may be referred to as tasks. Tasks may or may not involve the production of language. A task usually requires the teacher to specify what will be regarded as successful completion of the task. The use of a variety of different kinds of tasks in language teaching is said to make language teaching more communicative . . . since it provides a purpose for a classroom activity which goes beyond the practice of language for its own sake. (Richards, et al. 1986: 289)In this definition, we can see that the authors take a pedagogical perspec-tive. Tasks are defined in terms of what the learners will do in class rather2
  • Defining ‘task’than in the world outside the classroom. They also emphasize the impor-tance of having a non-linguistic outcome. Breen (1987: 23) offers another definition of a pedagogical task: . . . any structured language learning endeavour which has a particular objective, appropriate content, a specified working procedure, and a range of outcomes for those who undertake the task. ‘Task’ is therefore assumed to refer to a range of workplans which have the overall purposes of facilitating language learning – from the simple and brief exercise type, to more complex and lengthy activities such as group problem-solving or simulations and decision-making.This definition is very broad, implying as it does that just about anythingthe learner does in the classroom qualifies as a task. It could, in fact, beused to justify any procedure at all as ‘task-based’ and, as such, is notparticularly helpful. More circumscribed is the following from Willis(1996), cited in Willis and Willis (2001): a classroom undertaking ‘. . .where the target language is used by the learner for a communicativepurpose (goal) in order to achieve an outcome’. Here the notion ofmeaning is subsumed in ‘outcome’. Language in a communicative task isseen as bringing about an outcome through the exchange of meanings.(p. 173). Skehan (1998), drawing on a number of other writers, puts forwardfive key characteristics of a task:• meaning is primary• learners are not given other people’s meaning to regurgitate• there is some sort of relationship to comparable real-world activities• task completion has some priority• the assessment of the task is in terms of outcome.(See also Bygate, Skehan and Swain 2001, who argue that the way wedefine a task will depend to a certain extent on the purposes to which thetask is used.) Finally, Ellis (2003: 16) defines a pedagogical task in the followingway: A task is a workplan that requires learners to process language pragmatically in order to achieve an outcome that can be evaluated in terms of whether the correct or appropriate propositional content has been conveyed. To this end, it requires them to give primary attention to meaning and to make use of their own linguistic resources, although the design of the task may predispose them to choose particular forms. A task is intended to result in language use that bears a resemblance, direct or indirect, 3
  • What is task-based language teaching? to the way language is used in the real world. Like other language activities, a task can engage productive or receptive, and oral or written skills and also various cognitive processes. My own definition is that a pedagogical task is a piece of classroomwork that involves learners in comprehending, manipulating, producingor interacting in the target language while their attention is focused onmobilizing their grammatical knowledge in order to express meaning,and in which the intention is to convey meaning rather than to manipu-late form. The task should also have a sense of completeness, being ableto stand alone as a communicative act in its own right with a beginning,a middle and an end. While these definitions vary somewhat, they all emphasize the fact thatpedagogical tasks involve communicative language use in which theuser’s attention is focused on meaning rather than grammatical form.This does not mean that form is not important. My own definition refersto the deployment of grammatical knowledge to express meaning, high-lighting the fact that meaning and form are highly interrelated, and thatgrammar exists to enable the language user to express different commu-nicative meanings. However, as Willis and Willis (2001) point out, tasksdiffer from grammatical exercises in that learners are free to use a rangeof language structures to achieve task outcomes – the forms are not spec-ified in advance. Reflect Drawing on the above discussion, come up with your own definition of a pedagogical ‘task’.In the rest of the book, when I use the term ‘task’ I will be referring, ingeneral, to pedagogical tasks. When the term refers specifically to targetor real-world tasks, this will be indicated.Broader curricular consideration‘Curriculum’ is a large and complex concept, and the term itself is usedin a number of different ways. In some contexts, it is used to refer to aparticular program of study, as in ‘the science curriculum’ or ‘the math-ematics curriculum’. In other contexts, it is synonymous with ‘syllabus’.Over fifty years ago, Ralph Tyler, the ‘father’ of modern curriculumstudy, proposed a ‘rational’ curriculum model that is developed by firstlyidentifying goals and objectives (syllabus), then listing, organizing andgrading learning experiences (methodology), and finally finding means4
  • Broader curricular considerationfor determining whether the goals and objectives have been achieved(assessment and evaluation) (Tyler 1949). I have placed ‘rational’ inquotation marks because Tyler’s approach is not necessarily morerational than previous curricular proposals. However, it was a cleverrhetorical ploy because critics of the model could be accused of ‘irra-tionality’. Another perspective was presented in the mid-1970s by LawrenceStenhouse who argued that at the very minimum a curriculum shouldoffer the following: A. In planning 1. Principles for the selection of content – what is to be learned and taught. 2. Principles for the development of a teaching strategy – how it is to be learned and taught. 3. Principles for the making of decisions about sequence. 4. Principles on which to diagnose the strengths and weaknesses of individual students and differentiate the general principles 1, 2 and 3 above to meet individual cases. B. In empirical study 1. Principles on which to study and evaluate the progress of students. 2. Principles on which to study and evaluate the progress of teachers. 3. Guidance as to the feasibility of implementing the curriculum in varying school contexts, pupil contexts, environments and peer- group situations. 4. Information about the variability of effects in differing contexts and on different pupils and an understanding of the causes of the variations. C. In relation to justification A formulation of the intention or aim of the curriculum which is accessible to critical scrutiny. (Stenhouse 1975: 5)Stenhouse’s perspective provided a refreshing antidote to the rathermechanistic ‘rational’ curriculum model because it emphasized processas well as product, elevated the teacher as an important agent of curric-ulum development and change, and highlighted the importance of seeingthe curriculum in action. The focus on process and action make it aninteresting model for those interested in task-based curriculum propo-sals. (I should note parenthetically that even though his model is com-prehensive, it is by no means exhaustive. It says little, for example, aboutcurriculum management and monitoring.) 5
  • What is task-based language teaching? My own approach to curriculum has been strongly influenced byStenhouse. I draw a distinction between the curriculum as plan, thecurriculum as action, and the curriculum as outcome. The curriculumas plan refers to the processes and products that are drawn up prior tothe instructional process. These will include plans and syllabuses, text-book, and other resources, as well as assessment instruments. The cur-riculum as action refers to the moment-by-moment realities of theclassroom as the planned curriculum is enacted. The curriculum asoutcome relates to what students actually learn as a result of theinstructional process. The curriculum as plan consists of three elements: syllabus design,which is concerned with selecting, sequencing and justifying content;methodology, which is concerned with selecting, sequencing and justify-ing learning experiences; and assessment/evaluation, which is concernedwith the selection of assessment and evaluation instruments and proce-dures. This tripartite division works well enough in traditional approaches tocurriculum. However, after the emergence of communicative languageteaching (CLT), the distinction between syllabus design and methodol-ogy becomes more difficult to sustain. At the initial design stage, oneneeds to specify both the content (the ends of learning) and the tasks andlearning procedures (the means to those ends) in an integrated way. Thissuggests a broad approach to curriculum in which concurrent consider-ation is given to content, procedure, and evaluation. In the next chapter,I will set out a framework for doing this. Reflect To what extent does the curriculum you currently use, or a curriculum with which you are familiar, contain the different dimensions described in this section? In terms of the dimensions, where are the gaps in your curriculum? What are the strengths?Communicative language teachingAlthough it is not always immediately apparent, everything we do in theclassroom is underpinned by beliefs about the nature of language, thenature of the learning process and the nature of the teaching act. Thesedays it is generally accepted that language is more than a set of grammat-ical rules, with attendant sets of vocabulary, to be memorized. It is adynamic resource for creating meaning. Learning is no longer seen6
  • Communicative language teachingsimply as a process of habit formation. Learners and the cognitive pro-cesses they engage in as they learn are seen as fundamentally importantto the learning process. Additionally, in recent years, learning as a socialprocess is increasingly emphasized, and sociocultural theories are begin-ning to be drawn on in addition to (or even in preference to) cognitivetheories (see, for example, Lantolf 2000). Another distinction that has existed in general philosophy and episte-mology for many years is that between ‘knowing that’ and ‘knowinghow’ (see, for example, Ryle 1949), that is, between knowing and beingable to regurgitate sets of grammatical rules, and being able to deploythis grammatical knowledge to communicate effectively. In the days ofaudiolingualism ‘knowing that’ was eschewed in favour of ‘knowinghow’. However, now, the pursuit of both forms of knowledge are con-sidered valid goals of language pedagogy. (This issue is taken up ingreater depth in Chapter 5.) These views underpin communicative language teaching. A great dealhas been said and written about CLT in the last 30 years, and it is some-times assumed that the approach is a unitary one, whereas in reality itconsists of a family of approaches. And, as is the case with most fami-lies, not all members live harmoniously together all of the time. Thereare squabbles and disagreements, if not outright wars, from time to time.However, no one is willing to assert that they do not belong to thefamily. The basic insight that language can be thought of as a tool for com-munication rather than as sets of phonological, grammatical and lexicalitems to be memorized led to the notion of developing different learningprograms to reflect the different communicative needs of disparategroups of learners. No longer was it necessary to teach an item simplybecause it is ‘there’ in the language. A potential tourist to England shouldnot have to take the same course as an air traffic controller in Singaporeor a Columbian engineer preparing for graduate study in the UnitedStates. This insight led to the emergence of English for Specific Purposes(ESP) as an important subcomponent of language teaching, with its ownapproaches to curriculum development, materials design, pedagogy,testing and research. The CLT view of language as action, was nicely captured by Savignon(1993), one of the key architects of CLT, in a state-of-the-art surveyarticle in which she wrote: In Europe, during the 1970s, the language needs of a rapidly increasing group of immigrants and guest workers, and a rich British linguistic tradition that included social as well as linguistic context in description of language behavior, led to the Council of Europe development of a syllabus for learners based on 7
  • What is task-based language teaching? functional–notional concepts of language use and . . . a threshold level of language ability was described for each of the languages of Europe in terms of what learners should be able to do with the language (van Ek 1975). Functions were based on assessment of learner needs and specified the end result, the product, of an instructional program. The term communicative was used to describe programs that used a functional–notional syllabus based on needs assessment, and the language for specific purposes (LSP) movement was launched. (Savignon 1993: 37)While the ESP/LSP movement initially focused on the end product ofinstructional programs, CLT also forced a re-evaluation of learning pro-cesses. This created a dilemma for syllabus designers whose job it was toproduce ordered lists of items graded according to difficulty, frequencyor pedagogical convenience. With the emergence of CLT, these may nolonger have been principally structural or lexical lists, but lists of func-tions and notions. However, lists they remained. Processes belonged tothe domain of methodology. They were someone else’s business. Theycould not be reduced to lists of items. For a time, it seemed, the syllabusdesigner was out of business. One of the clearest articulations of this dilemma came from Breen. Hesuggested that the solution to the syllabus designer’s dilemma and theresolution to the dichotomy between language product and learningprocess were to see them as one and the same. Rather than separatingthe destination and the route of language learning, they should be seenas indistinguishable. Pedagogy should: . . . prioritize the route itself; a focusing upon the means towards the learning of a new language. Here the designer would give priority to the changing process of learning and the potential of the classroom – to the psychological and social resources applied to a new language by learners in the classroom context. . . . a greater concern with capacity for communication, with the activity of learning a language viewed as important as the language itself, and with a focus upon means rather than predetermined objectives, all indicate priority of process over content. (Breen 1984: 52–3)Breen is suggesting that when we place communication at the centre ofthe curriculum the goal of that curriculum (individuals who are capableof communicating in the target language) and the means (classroom pro-cedures that develop this capability) begin to merge: learners learn tocommunicate by communicating. The ends and the means become oneand the same.8
  • Communicative language teaching Under this scenario, what happens to the product-oriented approachwhich emphasizes the listing of structures and the specifying of end-of-course objectives? Can a place be found for them in CLT? This issue isparticularly crucial when considering the place of grammar. For sometime after the rise of CLT, the status of grammar in the curriculumseemed rather uncertain. Some linguists maintained that an explicitfocus on form was unnecessary, that the ability to use a second lan-guage (‘knowing how’) would develop automatically if learners focusedon meaning in the process of completing tasks. (See, for example,Krashen 1981, 1982). In recent years, this view has come under chal-lenge (Swain 1985, 1996; Doughty and Williams 1998), and there isnow widespread acceptance that a focus on form has a place in theclassroom. It is also accepted that grammar is an essential resource inmaking meaning (Halliday 1994; Hammond and Derewianka 2001).At present, debate centres on the extent to which a grammar syllabusshould be embedded in the curriculum, some arguing that a focus onform should be an incidental activity in the communicative classroom(Long and Robinson 1998). These issues are taken up and elaboratedon in Chapter 5. Littlewood (1981) draws a distinction between a strong and a weakinterpretation of CLT. The strong interpretation eschews a focus onform, while a weak interpretation acknowledges the need for such afocus. In making his case for a weak interpretation, Littlewood arguesthat the following skills need to be taken into consideration. • The learner must attain as high a degree as possible of linguistic competence. That is, he must develop skill in manipulating the linguistic system, to the point where he can use it spontaneously and flexibly in order to express his intended message. • The learner must distinguish between the forms he has mastered as part of his linguistic competence, and the communicative functions which they perform. In other words, items mastered as part of a linguistic system must also be understood as part of a communicative system. • The learner must develop skills and strategies for using language to communicate meaning as effectively as possible in concrete situations. He must learn to use feedback to judge his success, and, if necessary, remedy failure by using different language. • The learner must become aware of the social meaning of language forms. For many learners, this may not entail the ability to vary their own speech to suit different social circumstances, but rather the ability to use generally acceptable forms and avoid potentially offensive ones. (Littlewood 1981: 6) 9
  • What is task-based language teaching? Reflect What do you see as the role of grammar in the communicative language curriculum? Do you think that an explicit focus on grammar should be part of the learning experience? If so, do you think that the selection and grading of linguistic elements (grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation features, function, notions, etc.) should be carried out separately from the selection and sequencing of learning tasks?My own position is that the curriculum needs to take account of bothmeans and ends, and must, in consequence, incorporate both contentand process. In the final analysis, it does not matter whether thoseresponsible for specifying learning tasks are called ‘syllabus designers’ or‘methodologists’. What matters is that both processes and outcomes aretaken care of and that there is compatibility between them. Whatever theposition taken, there is no doubt that the development of CLT has hada profound effect on both methodology and syllabus design, and hasgreatly enhanced the status of the concept of ‘task’ within the curricu-lum. This last comment raises the question of the relationship betweencommunicative language teaching and task-based language teaching.Are the terms synonymous? If so, why have two terms for the samenotion? If not, wherein lies the difference? The answer is that CLT is abroad, philosophical approach to the language curriculum that draws ontheory and research in linguistics, anthropology, psychology and sociol-ogy. (For a review of the theoretical and empirical roots of CLT, seeSavignon 1993). Task-based language teaching represents a realizationof this philosophy at the levels of syllabus design and methodology.Other realizations that could fairly claim to reside within the CLT familyinclude content-based instruction (Brinton 2003), text-based syllabuses(Feez 1998), problem-based learning, and immersion education(Johnston and Swain 1997). It is also possible to find essentiallygrammar-based curricula that fit comfortably within the overarchingphilosophy of CLT. This is particularly true of curricula based on genretheory and systemic-functional linguistics (Burns 2001; Hammond andDerewianka 2001).Alternative approaches to syllabus designIn a seminal publication in 1976, David Wilkins suggested a basic dis-tinction between what he called ‘synthetic’ approaches to syllabus design10
  • Alternative approaches to syllabus designand ‘analytical’ approaches. All syllabuses, he suggested, fitted one orother of these approaches. In ‘synthetic’ approaches, ‘Different parts of the language are taughtseparately and step by step so that acquisition is a process of gradualaccumulation of parts until the whole structure of language has beenbuilt up’ (Wilkins 1976: 2). Such approaches represent the ‘traditional’way of organizing the syllabus, and reflect the common-sense belief thatthe central role of instruction is to simplify the learning challenge for thestudent. One way to simplify learning is to break the content down intoits constituent parts, and introduce each part separately and step by step. A related concept that was popular in the 1960s was that of masterylearning. Having broken the subject matter down and sequenced it fromeasy to difficult, each item of content was introduced to the learner in aserial fashion, and a new item was not supposed to be introduced untilthe current item had been thoroughly mastered (thus the label ‘masterylearning’). In the case of second language acquisition, however, it seemed thatlearners did not acquire one item perfectly one at a time. Rather theylearned numerous items imperfectly, and often almost simultaneously. Inaddition, the learning was unstable. An item that appeared to have beenacquired at one point in time seemed to have been ‘unlearned’ at a sub-sequent point in time (Ellis 1994). Research into processes of second language acquisition would appearto offer support for the alternative offered by Wilkins to synthetic sylla-buses. These are known as ‘analytical’ approaches because the learner ispresented with holistic ‘chunks’ of language and is required to analyzethem, or break them down into their constituent parts: Prior analysis of the total language system into a set of discrete pieces of language that is a necessary precondition for the adoption of a synthetic approach is largely superfluous. . . . [Such approaches] are organized in terms of the purposes for which people are learning language and the kinds of language that are necessary to meet these purposes. (Wilkins 1976: 13)All syllabus proposals that do not depend on a prior analysis of the lan-guage belong to this second category. In addition to task-based sylla-buses, we have project-based, content-based, thematic, and text-basedsyllabuses. Despite their differences, they all have one thing in common– they do not rely on prior analysis of the language into its discrete points. Of course, one needs to exercise judgement when introducing learnersto texts and tasks containing a wide range of language structures. Thisis particularly true in the early stages of the learning process. 11
  • What is task-based language teaching? Reflect Make a list of the pros and cons of analytic and synthetic approaches to syllabus design.Experiential learningAn important conceptual basis for task-based language teaching is expe-riential learning. This approach takes the learner’s immediate personalexperience as the point of departure for the learning experience.Intellectual growth occurs when learners engage in and reflect onsequences of tasks. The active involvement of the learner is thereforecentral to the approach, and a rubric that conveniently captures theactive, experiential nature of the process is ‘learning by doing’. In this, itcontrasts with a ‘transmission’ approach to education in which thelearner acquires knowledge passively from the teacher. Experiential learning has diverse roots in a range of disciplines fromsocial psychology, humanistic education, developmental education andcognitive theory. The person who pulled these diverse, though related,strands together was the psychologist David Kolb, who argued for anintegration of action and reflection. In his model (Kolb 1984), learnersmove from what they already know and can do to the incorporation ofnew knowledge and skills. They do this by making sense of some imme-diate experience, and then going beyond the immediate experiencethrough a process of reflection and transformation. The most articulate application of experiential learning to languageteaching is provided by Kohonen (1992). In many respects, his model canbe seen as a theoretical blueprint for TBLT, as can be seen from the fol-lowing list of precepts for action derived from his work.• Encourage the transformation of knowledge within the learner rather than the transmission of knowledge from the teacher to the learner.• Encourage learners to participate actively in small, collaborative groups (I see group and pair work as important, although I recognise that there are many contexts where class size makes pair and group work difficult).• Embrace a holistic attitude towards subject matter rather than a static, atomistic and hierarchical attitude.• Emphasize process rather than product, learning how to learn, self- inquiry, social and communication skills.• Encourage self-directed rather than teacher-directed learning.• Promote intrinsic rather than extrinsic motivation.12
  • Policy and practiceKohonen highlights the fit between experiential learning and otherkey concepts introduced in this chapter, particularly those of learner-centredness and autonomy: Experiential learning theory provides the basic philosophical view of learning as part of personal growth. The goal is to enable the learner to become increasingly self-directed and responsible for his or her own learning. This process means a gradual shift of the initiative to the learner, encouraging him or her to bring in personal contributions and experiences. Instead of the teacher setting the tasks and standards of acceptable performance, the learner is increasingly in charge of his or her own learning. (Kohonen 1992: 37) Reflect Select two or three of these principles and brainstorm ways of implementing them in the language classroom.Policy and practiceFifteen years ago, task-based language teaching was still an innovationat the level of official policy and practice, although it was used as acentral construct in a number of emerging research agendas (which arereviewed in Chapter 4). While there were several exciting proposals forpedagogy, few had actually been implemented. If official documents are to be believed, TBLT has become a corner-stone of many educational institutions and ministries of educationaround the world. It seems to be the new orthodoxy with major publish-ers, most of whom claim at least one major series to be ‘task-based’. Ina recent study into the impact of the emergence of English as a globallanguage on policies and practices in the Asia-Pacific region, governmentinformants in all seven of the countries surveyed claimed that task-basedteaching was a central principle driving their English language curricula(Nunan 2002, 2003). The following quote from the Hong KongMinistry of Education is typical of the kinds of governmental pronounce-ments being made:1 The task-based approach [upon which the curriculum is built] aims at providing opportunities for learners to experiment with1 The quote refers to ‘task-based language learning’, but in this book I follow the conventional terminology of calling such an approach ‘task-based language teaching’. 13
  • What is task-based language teaching? and explore both spoken and written language through learning activities that are designed to engage learners in the authentic, practical and functional use of language for meaningful purposes. Learners are encouraged to activate and use whatever language they already have in the process of completing a task. The use of tasks will also give a clear and purposeful context for the teaching and learning of grammar and other language features as well as skills. . . . All in all, the role of task-based language learning is to stimulate a natural desire in learners to improve their language competence by challenging them to complete meaningful tasks. (CDC 1999: 41)Whether the rhetoric matches the reality is another matter. In a studypublished in 1987, I reported a large gap between the rhetoric and thereality in relation to CLT. Schools that claimed to be teaching accordingto principles of CLT were doing nothing of the sort (Nunan 1987). Isuspect the same is true today of TBLT. When asked to describe whatTBLT is and how it is realized in the classroom, many people are hardpressed to do so. There are two possible interpretations for this. On theone hand it may partly reflect the fact that, as with CLT, there are numer-ous interpretations and orientations to the concept. That multiple per-spectives and applications have developed is not necessarily a bad thing;in fact, it is probably good that the concept has the power to speak todifferent people in different ways. On the other hand it may simply be acase of ‘old wine in new bottles’: schools embracing the new ‘orthodoxy’in their public pronouncements, but adhering to traditional practices inthe classroom. Reflect If possible, obtain a copy of the curriculum guidelines from a ministry of education or official agency where you teach or where you are contemplating teaching. Does ‘task-based language teaching’ have a place in the curriculum? What is it?Learner rolesSo far, we have looked at task-based teaching from the perspective of thecurriculum developer and the teacher. In this final section of the chapter,I would like to look at the approach from the perspective of the learner. Learner-centredness has been an influential concept in language peda-gogy for many years, and, like TBLT, it has strong links with communi-cative language teaching. While the learner-centred curriculum will14
  • The role of the learnercontain similar elements to traditional curricula, a key difference is thatinformation about learners and, where feasible, from learners will bebuilt into all stages in the curriculum process, from initial planning,through implementation, to assessment and evaluation. Curriculumdevelopment becomes a collaborative effort between teachers and learn-ers, since learners will be involved in decisions on content selection,methodology and evaluation (Nunan 1988). The philosophical reasonsfor adopting a learner-centred approach to instruction have beeninformed by research into learning styles and strategies (Willing 1988;Oxford 1990), as well as conceptual and empirical work in the area oflearner autonomy (Benson 2002). Breen – a frequent contributor to the literature on learner-centredteaching – has pointed out the advantages of linking learner-centrednesswith learning tasks. He draws attention to the frequent disparity betweenwhat the teacher intends as the outcome of a task, and what the learnersactually derive from it. (We may parallel this with a similar disparitybetween what curriculum documents say ought to happen and whatactually happens in the classroom. Learning outcomes will be influencedby learners’ perceptions about what constitutes legitimate classroomactivity. If the learners have been conditioned by years of instructionthrough a synthetic approach (see the section ‘Alternative approaches tosyllabus design’), they may question the legitimacy of a program basedon an analytical view of language learning. As Breen notes, outcomes will also be affected by learners’ perceptionsabout what they should contribute to task completion, their views aboutthe nature and demands of the task, and their definitions of the situationin which the task takes place. Additionally, we cannot know for certainhow different learners are likely to carry out a task. We tend to assumethat the way we look at a task will be the way learners look at it.However, there is evidence to suggest that, while we as teachers arefocusing on one thing, learners are focusing on other things. We cannotbe sure, then, that learners will not look for grammatical patterns whentaking part in activities designed to focus them on meaning, and look formeaning in tasks designed to focus them on grammatical form. One way of dealing with this tendency is to sensitize learners to theirown learning processes by adding to the curriculum a learning strategiesdimension. Eventually, it should be possible for learners to make choicesabout what to do and how to do it. This of course implies a major changein the roles assigned to learners and teachers. By using ‘task’ as a basicunit of learning, and by incorporating a focus on strategies, we open tothe students the possibility of planning and monitoring their own learn-ing, and begin to break down some of the traditional hierarchies. This isnot to say that the teacher and learner will view the same task in the same 15
  • What is task-based language teaching?way and attach the same ‘meanings’ to it. Nor does it absolve the teacherfrom the responsibility of ensuring that through an appropriate sequenc-ing of tasks the appropriate ‘formal curricula’ are covered. Reflect Few curricula will ever be totally subject-centred or totally learner- centred. However, even in institutions in which teachers and learners have minimal input into the curriculum development process, it is possible to introduce elements of learner-centred instruction. Think about your own program, and list ways in which it could be made more learner-centred.ConclusionIn this chapter, I have introduced and defined ‘task’ in relation to thegeneral field of language curriculum design. I tried to tease out some ofthe conceptual differences as well as the relationships between key con-cepts such as curriculum, syllabus, methodology, task and exercise.Other important concepts included in the chapter were synthetic andanalytical approaches to syllabus design and experiential learning. I alsotouched on the place of a focus on form in the task-based classroom, aswell as the role of the learner and the importance of a focus on learningprocess as well as on language content. In the next chapter, I will set out a framework for TBLT along withthe elements that make up a task. These elements will then be elaboratedon in Chapter 3.ReferencesBenson, P. 2002. Teaching and Researching Autonomy in Language Learning. London: Longman.Breen, M. 1984. Processes in syllabus design. In C. Brumfit (ed.) General English Syllabus Design. Oxford: Pergamon Press.Breen, M. 1987. Learner contributions to task design. In C. Candlin and D. Murphy (eds) Language Learning Tasks. Englewood Cliffs NJ: Prentice- Hall.Brinton, D. 2003. Content-based instruction. In D. Nunan (ed.) Practical English Language Teaching. New York: McGraw-Hill.Burns, A. 2001. Genre-based approaches to writing and beginning adult ESL learners. In C. Candlin and N. Mercer (eds) English Language Teaching in its Social Context. London: Routledge.16
  • ReferencesBygate, M., P. Skehan and M. Swain (eds). 2001. Researching Pedagogic Tasks: Second language learning, teaching and testing. London: Longman.CDC. 1999. Syllabuses for Secondary Schools: English language secondary 1–5. Hong Kong: Curriculum Development Council, Education Department.Doughty, C. and J. Williams (eds). 1998. Focus on Form in Classroom Second Language Acquisition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Ellis, R. 1994. The Study of Second Language Acquisition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Ellis, R. 2003. Task-Based Language Teaching and Learning. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Feez, S. 1998. Text-Based Syllabus Design. Sydney NSW: National Centre for English Language Teaching and Research, Macquarie University.Halliday, M. A. K. 1994. An Introduction to Functional Grammar. Second edition. London: Arnold.Hammond, J. and B. Derewianka. 2001. Genre. In R. Carter and D. Nunan (eds) The Cambridge Guide to Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Johnston, K. and M. Swain (eds). 1997. Immersion Education: International Perspectives. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Kohonen, V. 1992. Experiential language learning: Second language learning as cooperative learner education. In D. Nunan (ed.) Collaborative Language Learning and Teaching. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Kolb, D. 1984. Experiential Learning: Experience as the source of learning and development. Englewood Cliffs NJ: Prentice-Hall.Krashen, S. 1981. Second Language Acquisition and Second Language Learning. Oxford: Pergamon Press.Krashen, S. 1982. Principles and Practice in Second Language Acquisition. Oxford: Pergamon Press.Lantolf, J. (ed.) 2000. Sociocultural Theory and Second Language Learning. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Littlewood, W. 1981. Communicative Language Teaching: an introduction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Long, M. 1985. A role for instruction in second language acquisition. In K. Hyltenstam and M. Pienemann (eds) Modelling and Assessing Second Language Acquisition. Clevedon, Avon: Multilingual Matters.Long, M. and P. Robinson. 1998. Focus on form: Theory, research and practice. In C. Doughty and J. Williams (eds) Focus on Form in Classroom Second Language Acquisition Research. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Nunan, D. 1987. Communicative language teaching: Making it work. ELT Journal, 41, 2, 136–145.Nunan, D. 1988. The Learner-Centred Curriculum. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Nunan, D. 2003. The impact of English as a global language on educational pol- icies and practices in the Asia-Pacific region. TESOL Quarterly, 37, 4, Winter 2003.Oxford, R. 1990. Language Learning Strategies: What every teacher should know. Boston: Newbury House. 17
  • What is task-based language teaching?Richards, J., J. Platt and H. Weber. 1986. Longman Dictionary of Applied Linguistics. London: Longman.Ryle, G. 1949. The Concept of Mind. London: Hutchinson.Savignon, S. 1993. Communicative language teaching: the state of the art. In S. Silberstein (ed.) State of the Art TESOL Essays. Alexandria VA.: TESOL.Skehan, P. 1998. A Cognitive Approach to Language Learning. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Stenhouse, L. 1975. An Introduction to Curriculum Research and Development. London: Heinemann.Swain, M. 1985. Communicative competence: Some roles of comprehensible input and comprehensible output in its development. In S. Gass and C. Madden (eds) Input in Second Language Acquisition. Rowley Mass.: Newbury House.Swain, M. 1996. Plenary presentation. International Language in Education Conference, University of Hong Kong, December 1996.Tyler, R. 1949. Basic Principles of Curriculum and Instruction. New York: Harcourt Brace.van Ek, J. 1975. Systems Development in Adult Language Learning: the thresh- old level in a European unit credit system for modern language learning by adults. Strasburg: Council of Europe.Wilkins, D. 1976. Notional Syllabuses. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Willing, K. 1988. Learning Styles in Adult Migrant Education. Sydney: NCELTR.Willis, D. 1996. A Framework for Task-Based Learning. London: Longman.Willis, D. and J. Willis. 2001. Task-based language learning. In R. Carter and D. Nunan (eds) The Cambridge Guide to Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.18
  • 2 A framework for task-based language teachingIntroduction and overviewIn the first section of this chapter, I introduce a framework for task-basedlanguage teaching. The framework defines and exemplifies the key ele-ments in the model that underlies this book including real-world/targettasks, pedagogical tasks and enabling skills. The next section outlines aprocedure for creating an integrated syllabus around the concept of thepedagogic task. The section that follows is devoted to materials designconsiderations. It provides a procedure that can be used for planninglessons, materials and units of work. In the final section, the principlesunderlying the procedures described in the body of the chapter are laidout.A task frameworkAs we saw in Chapter 1, the point of departure for task-based languageteaching is real-world or target tasks. These are the hundred and onethings we do with language in everyday life, from writing a poem to con-firming an airline reservation to exchanging personal information with anew acquaintance. These three examples, by the way, illustrate MichaelHalliday’s three macrofunctions of language. Halliday argues that at avery general level, we do three things with language: we use it to exchangegoods and services (this is the transactional or service macrofunction), weuse it to socialize with others (this is the interpersonal or social macrofunc-tion), and we use it for enjoyment (this is the aesthetic macrofunction). Typically, in everyday interactions, the macrofunctions are inter-woven, as in the following (invented) example:A: Nice day.B: That it is. What can I do for you?A: I’d like a round-trip ticket to the airport, please.In order to create learning opportunities in the classroom, we musttransform these real-world tasks into pedagogical tasks. Such taskscan be placed on a continuum from rehearsal tasks to activation tasks. 19
  • A framework for task-based language teachingA rehearsal task bears a clear and obvious relationship to its correspond-ing real-world counterpart. For example, the other day I was teaching ona course designed to help my students develop job-seeking skills. Thetask that my students had to complete was as follows.Pedagogical task: rehearsal rationaleWrite your resumé and exchange it with a partner. Study the positionsavailable advertisements in the newspaper and find three that would besuitable for your partner. Then compare your choices with the actualchoice made by your partner.This task has a rehearsal rationale. If someone were to visit my classroomand ask why the students were doing this task, my reply would be some-thing along the lines of, ‘Well, I’m getting them, in the security of the class-room, to rehearse something they’re going to need to do outside theclassroom.’ Notice that the task has been transformed. It is not identical to the processof actually applying for a job in the world outside the classroom. In addi-tion to the work with a partner, the students will be able to get feedback andadvice from me, the teacher, as well as drawing on other resources. Not all pedagogical tasks have such a clear and obvious relationshipto the real world. Many role plays, simulations, problem-solving tasksand information exchange tasks have what I call an activation rationale.The task is designed not to provide learners with an opportunity torehearse some out-of-class performance but to activate their emerginglanguage skills. In performing such tasks, learners begin to move fromreproductive language use – in which they are reproducing and manipu-lating language models provided by the teacher, the textbook or the tape– to creative language use in which they are recombining familiar words,structures and expressions in novel ways. I believe that it is when usersbegin to use language creatively that they are maximally engaged in lan-guage acquisition because they are required to draw on their emerginglanguage skills and resources in an integrated way. Here is an example of an activation task. It is one I observed a groupof students carrying out in a secondary school classroom. It formed thebasis of an extremely engaging lesson to which all students actively andanimatedly contributed.Pedagogical task: activation rationaleWork with three other students. You are on a ship that is sinking. Youhave to swim to a nearby island. You have a waterproof container, but20
  • A framework for task-based language teachingcan only carry 20 kilos of items in it. Decide which of the following itemsyou will take. (Remember, you can’t take more than 20 kilos with you.) • Axe (8 kilos) • Box of novels and magazines (3 kilos) • Cans of food (500 grams • Packets of sugar, flour, each) rice,powdered milk, coffee, tea (each packet weighs 500 grams) • Bottles of water (1.5 kilos • Medical kit (2 kilos) each) • Short-wave radio (12 kilos) • Portable CD player and CDs (4 kilos) • Firelighting kits (500 grams • Rope (6 kilos) each) • Notebook computer (3.5 • Waterproof sheets of fabric kilos) (3 kilos each)This task, which worked very well, does not have a rehearsal rationalein that the teacher was not expecting the students to be shipwrecked inthe foreseeable future. The aim of the task was to encourage students toactivate a range of language functions and structures including makingsuggestions, agreeing, disagreeing, talking about quantity, how much/how many, wh-questions, etc. (It is worth noting, however, that learnersare not constrained to using a particular set of lexical and grammaticalresources. They are free to use any linguistic means at their disposal tocomplete the task.) One interpretation of TBLT is that communicative involvement inpedagogical tasks of the kind described and illustrated above is the nec-essary and sufficient condition of successful second language acquisition.This ‘strong’ interpretation has it that language acquisition is a subcon-scious process in which the conscious teaching of grammar is unneces-sary: ‘Language is best taught when it is being used to transmit messages,not when it is explicitly taught for conscious learning’ (Krashen andTerrell 1983: 55). The argument by proponents of a ‘strong’ interpretation of TBLT isthat the classroom should attempt to simulate natural processes of acqui-sition, and that form-focused exercises are unnecessary. Elsewhere,Krashen (see, for example, Krashen 1981, 1982) argues that there is a 21
  • A framework for task-based language teachingrole for grammar, but that this role is to provide affective support to thelearner – in other words it makes them feel better because, for mostlearners, a focus on form is what language learning is all about, but itdoes not fuel the acquisition process. In fact, Krashen and Terrell arguethat even speaking is unnecessary for acquisition: ‘We acquire from whatwe hear (or read), not from what we say.’ (p. 56). The role of a focus onform remains controversial, as we shall see in Chapter 5. My own view is that language classrooms are unnatural by design, andthat they exist precisely to provide for learners the kinds of practiceopportunities that do not exist outside the classroom. Learners, particu-larly those in the early stages of the learning process, can benefit from afocus on form (Doughty and Williams 1998; Long 1985; Long andRobinson 1998), and learners should not be expected to generate lan-guage that has not been made accessible to them in some way. In fact,what is needed is a pedagogy that reveals to learners systematic interre-lationships between form, meaning and use (Larsen-Freeman 2001). In the TBLT framework presented here, form-focused work is pre-sented in the form of enabling skills, so called because they are de-signed to develop skills and knowledge that will ultimately facilitatethe process of authentic communication. In the framework, enablingskills are of two kinds: language exercises and communicative activities.(See Kumaravadivelu 1991, 1993 for elaboration.) Language exercises come in many shapes and forms and can focus onlexical, phonological or grammatical systems. Here are examples of lex-ically and grammatically focused language exercises: ➳22
  • A framework for task-based language teachingLanguage exercise: lexical focusA Complete the word map with jobs from the list.architect, receptionist, company director, flight attendant, supervisor,engineer, salesperson, secretary, professor, sales manager, security guard,word processor Professionals Service occupations architect flight attendant …………….. …………….. …………….. …………….. …………….. …………….. …………….. …………….. JOBS Management positions Office work company director receptionist …………….. …………….. …………….. …………….. …………….. …………….. …………….. ……………..B Add two jobs to each category. Then compare with a partner.(Richards 1997: 8)Language exercise: grammatical focusA Complete the conversation. Then practise with a partner.A. What ………… you …………?B. I’m a student. I study business.A. And ………… do you ………… to school?B. I ………… to Jefferson College.A. ………… do you like your classes?B. I ………… them a lot.(Richards 1997: 8)The essential difference between these practice opportunities and thoseafforded by pedagogical tasks has to do with outcomes. In each caseabove, success will be determined in linguistic terms: ‘Did the learnersget the language right?’ In pedagogical tasks, however, there is anoutcome that transcends language: ‘Did the learners select the correctarticle of clothing according to the weather forecast?’ ‘Did they manageto get from the hotel to the bank?’ ‘Did they select food and drink itemsfor a class party that were appropriate and within their budget?’ 23
  • A framework for task-based language teaching Communicative activities represent a kind of ‘half-way house’ betweenlanguage exercises and pedagogical tasks. They are similar to languageexercises in that they provide manipulative practice of a restricted set oflanguage items. They resemble pedagogical tasks in that they have anelement of meaningful communication. In the example that follows, stu-dents are manipulating the forms ‘Have you ever . . .?’, ‘Yes, I have’ and‘No, I haven’t.’ However, there is also an element of authentic communi-cation because, presumably, they can not be absolutely sure of how theirinterlocutors are going to respond.Communicative activityLook at the survey chart and add three more items to the list. Now, goaround the class and collect as many names as you can. Find someone who has . . . Name . . . driven a racing car . . . been to a Grand Prix race . . . played squash . . . run a marathon . . . had music lessons . . . ridden a motorcycle . . . flown an airplane . . . been to a bullfight . . . been scuba diving . . . played tennis(Nunan 1995: 96)These then are the basic building blocks of TBLT. After a discussion ofsyllabus design considerations, we shall look at how these elements canbe combined to form units of work. The framework described in thissection is represented diagrammatically on the next page.24
  • Syllabus design considerations Real-world / target tasks Pedagogical tasks Enabling skills Rehearsal Activation Language Communicative <---------> tasks tasks exercises activitiesA framework for TBLT Reflect Find examples of these different task, activity and exercise types in a textbook you are currently using or one with which you are familiar. How are they combined?Syllabus design considerationsOne of the potential problems with a task-based program is that it mayconsist of a seemingly random collection of tasks with nothing to tiethem together. In my own work, I tie tasks together in two ways. In termsof units of work or lessons, they are tied together through the principleof ‘task chaining’. At a broader syllabus level, they are tied togethertopically/thematically, through the macrofunctions, microfunctions andgrammatical elements they express. I will explore the principle of taskchaining in the next section. In this section I will look at broader sylla-bus design consideration. 25
  • A framework for task-based language teachingConsider the following tasks:1. Look at the map with your partner. You are at the hotel. Ask your partner for directions to the bank.2. You are having a party. Tell your partner how to get from the school to your home.Syllabus design considerations: Example 1 Tasks Macrofunctions Microfunctions Grammar Look at the map with your partner. You are at the hotel. Ask your partner for directions to the Exchanging goods Asking for and Wh-questions bank. and services giving directions Yes/no You are having a questions party. Tell your Imperatives partner how to get from the school to your home.These are both underpinned by the same macrofunction (exchanginggoods and services), the same microfunction (asking for and giving direc-tions) and the same grammatical elements (among others, wh-questionsand imperatives).26
  • Syllabus design considerationsExample 2 provides a different set of tasks realizing the same macrofunc-tion of ‘exchanging goods and services’. But here the three tasks have dif-ferent microfunctions. One of the grammatical items, ‘yes/no questions’is recycled from example 1.Syllabus design considerations: Example 2 Tasks Macrofunctions Microfunctions Grammar Role play. You are in a clothing store and have $150 to spend. Your partner is the sales assistant. Look at the clothing items on the worksheet. Find out the prices and decide what to buy. Listen to the Exchanging goods Asking about How much?/ automated ticketing and services and stating how many? service for ‘What’s prices Yes/no on around town this questions weekend’. Make a list of movies and concerts and how much they cost. Work with three other students and decide where to go. Look at a set of ‘to let’ ads, and decide with three other students on the most suitable place to rent. 27
  • A framework for task-based language teachingThe third example illustrates the second macrofunction, that of social-izing. The microfunction and two of the grammar items are new but,again, yes/no questions are used.Syllabus design considerations: Example 3 Tasks Macrofunctions Microfunctions Grammar You are at a party. Introduce your partner to three other people. Socializing Exchanging Stative verbs Role play. You and personal Demonstrative: a friend have started information this at a new school. Yes/no Circulate and find questions out about your classmates.These considerations can all be pulled together and integrated by takinga non-linguistic organizing principle such as topics or themes and acontent-based approach in which other subjects on the school curricu-lum, for example science, maths or geography, provide the content. The table on p. 29 illustrates how a theme such as ‘the neighbourhood’integrates several tasks which are underpinned by a range of linguisticelements.28
  • Syllabus design considerationsTheme: The neighbourhood Tasks Macrofunctions Microfunctions Grammar Look at the map Exchanging Asking for and Wh-questions with your partner. goods and giving Yes/no You are at the hotel. services directions questions Ask your partner for Imperatives directions to the bank. You are having a Exchanging Asking for and Wh-questions party. Tell your goods and giving Yes/no partner how to get services directions questions from the school to Imperatives your home. You’ve decided to Exchanging Making Comparisons move to a new goods and comparisons with suburb/neighbour- services adjectives hood. Make a list of the facilities and services that are important to you and then decide on the best place to live based on brochures from local councils. You have just moved Socializing Exchanging Stative verbs to a new neighbour- personal Demonstrative: hood. Introduce information this yourself to your Yes/no neighbours. questionsAt this point, two questions arise. Firstly, what is the difference betweena ‘task’ and a ‘function’? Secondly, in what way does a syllabus orga-nized according to ‘task’ represent an advance over a functional or evena grammatical syllabus? A related question might be: won’t a syllabusorganized according to tasks be disorganized according to functions andgrammar? We have already seen in the boxes above that certain func-tional and grammatical items appear more than once. Tasks and functions are obviously closely related. Any task will beunderpinned by at least one (and sometimes several) functions. Tasks canbe thought of as functions + context. They allow for functions (andgrammar) to be activated in a particular communicative context. 29
  • A framework for task-based language teachingFunctions are more abstract realizations than tasks of the things we dowith language. In a program based on a synthetic syllabus (whether this be a gram-matical or functional syllabus), the learner, typically, will only get one ortwo ‘shots’ at the item in question. Synthetic syllabuses, sharing as theydo ‘a static target language product orientation’, have other problems aswell. Syllabus content is ultimately based on an analysis of the language to be learned, whether this be overt, as in the case of structure, word, notion or function, or covert, as has usually been the case with situation and topic. . . . it is assumed that the unit, or teaching point, which is presented will be what is learned and that it is efficient to organize and present material in an isolating fashion. SLA research offers no evidence to suggest that any of these synthetic units are meaningful acquisition units, that they are (or even can be) acquired separately, singly, in linear fashion, or that they can be learned prior to and separate from language use. In fact, the same literature provides overwhelming evidence against all those tacit assumptions. (Long and Crookes 1993: 26–7)In contrast with synthetic syllabuses, a task-based syllabus allows for agreat deal of naturalistic recycling. In a task-based syllabus, grammati-cal and functional items will reappear numerous times in a diverse rangeof contexts. This would appear to be healthy for second language acqui-sition because it allows learners to ‘restructure’ and develop an elab-orated understanding of the item in question. It is therefore consistentwith an ‘organic’ view of acquisition in which numerous items areacquired simultaneously, albeit imperfectly. From research, we know that if we test a learner’s ability to use a par-ticular grammatical form several times over a period of time their accu-racy rates will vary. Their mastery of the structure will not increase in alinear fashion from zero to native-like mastery. At times their ability willstabilize. At other times they will appear to get worse, not better. That isbecause, as Long and Crookes have pointed out, linguistic items are notisolated entities. Rather, any given item is affected by, and will affect,numerous others. As Rutherford (1987) has argued, language acquisi-tion is an organic process and, in acquiring a language, learners gothrough a kind of linguistic metamorphosis. Task-based learningexploits this process and allows the learner to ‘grow’ into the language(Nunan 1999).30
  • Developing units of work Reflect Select one or two pedagogical tasks and elaborate them in terms of macrofunctions, microfunctions and grammatical exponents.Developing units of workIn the preceding section, we looked at broader syllabus design issues. Inthis section, I would like to describe how we can develop instructionalsequences around tasks. Consider the following target task taken fromexample 2 in the preceding section:Look at a set of ‘to let’ ads, and decide with three other students on themost suitable place to rent.With a group of pre-intermediate level students, how can we create alinked sequence of enabling exercises and activities that will preparelearners to carry out the task? I would like to propose a six-step proce-dure, and this is set out below.Step 1: Schema buildingThe first step is to develop a number of schema-building exercises thatwill serve to introduce the topic, set the context for the task, and intro-duce some of the key vocabulary and expressions that the students willneed in order to complete the task. For example, students may be givena number of newspaper advertisements for renting accommodation ofdifferent kinds such as a house, a two-bedroom apartment, a studioapartment, etc., a list of key words and a series of photos of families,couples and single people. They have to identify key words, some writtenas abbreviations, and then match the people in the photos to the mostsuitable accommodation.Step 2: Controlled practiceThe next step is to provide students with controlled practice in using thetarget language vocabulary, structures and functions. One way of doing thiswould be to present learners with a brief conversation between two peoplediscussing accommodation options relating to one of the advertisementsthat they studied in step 1. They could be asked to listen to and read theconversation, and then practise it in pairs. In this way, early in the instruc-tional cycle, they would get to see, hear and practise the target language forthe unit of work. This type of controlled practice extends the scaffolded 31
  • A framework for task-based language teachinglearning that was initiated in step 1. They could then be asked to practisevariations on this conversation model using other advertisements in step 1as cues. Finally, they could be asked to cover up the conversational modeland practice again, using only the cues from step 1, and without the require-ment that they follow the conversational model word for word. At this point, the lesson might be indistinguishable from a more tradi-tional audiolingual or situational lesson. The difference is, however, thatthe learners have been introduced to the language within a communica-tive context. In the final part of the step, they are also beginning todevelop a degree of communicative flexibility.Step 3: Authentic listening practiceThe next step involves learners in intensive listening practice. The listen-ing texts could involve a number of native speakers inquiring aboutaccommodation options, and the task for the learner would be to matchthe conversations with the advertisements from step 1. This step wouldexpose them to authentic or simulated conversation, which could incor-porate but extend the language from the model conversation in step 2.Step 4: Focus on linguistic elementsThe students now get to take part in a sequence of exercises in which thefocus is on one or more linguistic elements. They might listen again to theconversations from step 3 and note the intonation contours for differentquestion types. They could then use cue words to write questions andanswers involving comparatives and superlatives: ‘The two-bedroomapartment is cheaper than the three-bedroom apartment’, ‘Which houseis closer to public transport?’, ‘This flat is the most spacious’, etc. Note that in a more traditional synthetic approach, this language focuswork would probably occur as step 1. In the task-based procedure beingpresented here, it occurs relatively late in the instructional sequence.Before analyzing elements of the linguistic system, they have seen, heardand spoken the target language within a communicative context. Hope-fully, this will make it easier for the learner to see the relationshipbetween communicative meaning and linguistic form than when linguis-tic elements are isolated and presented out of context as is often the casein more traditional approaches.Step 5: Provide freer practiceSo far, students have been involved in what I call ‘reproductive’ languagework; in other words, they have been working within the constraints of32
  • Developing units of worklanguage models provided by the teacher and the materials. At this point,it is time for the students to engage in freer practice, where they movebeyond simple manipulation. For example, working in pairs they couldtake part in an information gap role play in which Student A plays thepart of a potential tenant and Student B plays the part of a rental agent.Student A makes a note of his or her needs and then calls the rental agent.Student B has a selection of newspaper advertisements and uses these tooffer Student A suitable accommodation. The student should be encouraged to extemporize, using whatever lan-guage they have at their disposal to complete the task. Some studentsmay ‘stick to the script’, while others will take the opportunity to inno-vate. Those who innovate will be producing what is known as ‘pushedoutput’ (Swain 1995) because the learners will be ‘pushed’ by the task tothe edge of their current linguistic competence. This will result in dis-course that begins to draw closer to the discourse of normal conversa-tion, exhibiting features such as the negotiation of meaning. In thisprocess, they will create their own meanings and, at times, their own lan-guage. To begin with, this will result in idiosyncratic ‘interlanguage’, butover time it will approximate more and more closely to native speakernorms as learners ‘grow’ into the language. (See Rutherford 1987, andNunan 1999, for an account of language acquisition as an ‘organic’process.) As we shall see in Chapter 4, it has been hypothesized that suchcreative language work is healthy for second language acquisition (Long1985; Martyn 1996, 2001).Step 6: Introduce the pedagogical taskThe final step in the instruction sequence is the introduction of the ped-agogical task itself – in this case a small group task in which the partic-ipants have to study a set of newspaper advertisements and decide on themost suitable place to rent. This six-step instructional sequence is summarized on pp. 34–5. Whenusing this sequence, I sometimes at the outset show the students the finaltask in the sequence and ask them if they can do it. The usual responsefrom most students is a negative one (and sometimes one of outrighthorror). Generally speaking, however, students find it highly motivating,having worked through the sequence, to arrive at step 6 and find thatthey are able to complete the task more or less successfully. 33
  • A framework for task-based language teachingA pedagogical sequence for introducing tasks Step 1 Example Create a number of schema- Look at newspaper advertisements building tasks that introduce initial for renting accommodation. vocabulary, language and context Identify key words (some written for the task. as abbreviations), and match people with accommodation. Step 2 Example Give learners controlled practice Listen to a model conversation in the target language vocabulary, between two people discussing structures and functions. accommodation options and practise the conversation. Practise again using the same conversation model but information from the advertisements in step 1. In the final practise, try to move away from following the conversation model word for word. Step 3 Example Give learners authentic listening Listen to several native speakers practice. inquiring about accommodation and match the conversations with newspaper ads. Step 4 Example Focus learners on linguistic Listen again to conversations and elements, e.g. grammar and note intonation contours. Use cue vocabulary. words to write complete questions and answers involving comparatives and superlatives (cheaper, closer, most spacious, etc.). Step 5 Example Provide freer practice. Pair work: information gap role play. Student A plays the part of a potential tenant. Make a note of needs and then call rental agent. Student B plays the part of a rental agent. Use ads to offer partner suitable accommodation.34
  • Seven principles for task-based language teaching Step 6 Example Pedagogical task Group work discussion and decision making task. Look at a set of advertisements and decide on the most suitable place to rent. Reflect Select a target task and develop your own instructional sequence using this six-step procedure as a model.Seven principles for task-based language teachingIn this final section of the chapter, I will summarize the underlying prin-ciples that were drawn on in developing the instructional sequence out-lined above.Principle 1: Scaffolding• Lessons and materials should provide supporting frameworks within which the learning takes place. At the beginning of the learning process, learners should not be expected to produce language that has not been introduced either explicitly or implicitly.A basic role for an educator is to provide a supporting framework withinwhich the learning can take place. This is particularly important in thecase of analytical approaches such as TBLT in which the learners willencounter holistic ‘chunks’ of language that will often be beyond theircurrent processing capacity. The ‘art’ of TBLT is knowing when to removethe scaffolding. If the scaffolding is removed prematurely, the learningprocess will ‘collapse’. If it is maintained too long, the learners will notdevelop the independence required for autonomous language use.Principle 2: Task dependency• Within a lesson, one task should grow out of, and build upon, the ones that have gone before.The task dependency principle is illustrated in the instructional sequenceabove which shows how each task exploits and builds on the one thathas gone before. In a sense, the sequence tells a ‘pedagogical’ story, as 35
  • A framework for task-based language teachinglearners are led step by step to the point where they are able to carry outthe final pedagogical task in the sequence. Within the task-dependency framework, a number of other principlesare in operation. One of these is the receptive-to-productive principle.Here, at the beginning of the instructional cycle, learners spend agreater proportion of time engaged in receptive (listening and reading)tasks than in productive (speaking and writing) tasks. Later in the cycle,the proportion changes, and learners spend more time in productivework. The reproductive-to-creative-language principle is also used indeveloping chains of tasks. This principle is summarized separatelybelow.Principle 3: Recycling• Recycling language maximizes opportunities for learning and acti- vates the ‘organic’ learning principle.An analytical approach to pedagogy is based on the assumption thatlearning is not an all-or-nothing process, that mastery learning is a mis-conception, and that learning is piecemeal and inherently unstable. If itis accepted that learners will not achieve one hundred per cent masterythe first time they encounter a particular linguistic item, then it followsthat they need to be reintroduced to that item over a period of time. Thisrecycling allows learners to encounter target language items in a rangeof different environments, both linguistic and experiential. In this waythey will see how a particular item functions in conjunction with otherclosely related items in the linguistic ‘jigsaw puzzle’. They will also seehow it functions in relation to different content areas. For example, theywill come to see how ‘expressing likes and dislikes’ and ‘yes/no questionswith do/does’ function in a range of content areas, from the world ofentertainment to the world of food.Principle 4: Active learning• Learners learn best by actively using the language they are learning.In Chapter 1, I gave a brief introduction to the concept of experientiallearning. A key principle behind this concept is that learners learn bestthrough doing – through actively constructing their own knowledgerather than having it transmitted to them by the teacher. When appliedto language teaching, this suggests that most class time should be devotedto opportunities for learners to use the language. These opportunitiescould be many and varied, from practising memorized dialogues to com-pleting a table or chart based on some listening input. The key point,36
  • Seven principles for task-based language teachinghowever, is that it is the learner, not the teacher, who is doing the work.This is not to suggest that there is no place at all for teacher input, expla-nation and so on, but that such teacher-focused work should not domi-nate class time.Principle 5: Integration• Learners should be taught in ways that make clear the relationships between linguistic form, communicative function and semantic meaning.Until fairly recently, most approaches to language teaching were basedon a synthetic approach in which the linguistic elements – the grammat-ical, lexical and phonological components – were taught separately. Thisapproach was challenged in the 1980s by proponents of early versionsof communicative language teaching who argued that a focus on formwas unnecessary, and that all learners needed in order to acquire a lan-guage were opportunities to communicate in the language. This led to asplit between proponents of form-based instruction and proponents ofmeaning-based instruction, with proponents of meaning-based instruc-tion arguing that, while a mastery of grammar is fundamental to effec-tive communication, an explicit focus on form is unnecessary. Morerecently, applied linguists working within the framework of systemic-functional linguistics have argued that the challenge for pedagogy is to‘reintegrate’ formal and functional aspects of language, and that what isneeded is a pedagogy that makes explicit to learners the systematic rela-tionships between form, function and meaning.Principle 6: Reproduction to creation• Learners should be encouraged to move from reproductive to creative language use.In reproductive tasks, learners reproduce language models provided bythe teacher, the textbook or the tape. These tasks are designed to givelearners mastery of form, meaning and function, and are intended toprovide a basis for creative tasks. In creative tasks, learners are recom-bining familiar elements in novel ways. This principle can be deployednot only with students who are at intermediate levels and above but alsowith beginners if the instructional process is carefully sequenced.Principle 7: Reflection• Learners should be given opportunities to reflect on what they have learned and how well they are doing. 37
  • A framework for task-based language teachingBecoming a reflective learner is part of learner training where the focusshifts from language content to learning processes. Strictly speaking,learning-how-to-learn does not have a more privileged place in one par-ticular approach to pedagogy than in any other. However, I feel thisreflective element has a particular affinity with task-based languageteaching. TBLT introduces learners to a broad array of pedagogicalundertakings, each of which is underpinned by at least one strategy.Research suggests that learners who are aware of the strategies drivingtheir learning will be better learners. Additionally, for learners who havedone most of their learning in ‘traditional’ classrooms, TBLT can be mys-tifying and even alienating, leading them to ask, ‘Why are we doing this?’Adding a reflective element to teaching can help learners see the ratio-nale for the new approach. Reflect Evaluate the materials or textbook you are currently using or one that you are familiar with in terms of the seven principles articulated in this section.ConclusionThe main aim of this chapter has been to develop a framework for trans-forming target or real-world tasks into pedagogical tasks. I devoted thefirst part of the chapter to a description and exemplification of thevarious elements that go in to a curriculum in which the task is the basicorganizing principle. This was followed by a section that sets out a pro-cedure for integrating other elements including functions and structures.I then provided a detailed example of how an instructional sequence,integrating all of these elements, can be put together. The chapter con-cluded with a summary of the principles underlying the instructionalsequence. In the next chapter, we will look at the core components that go tomake up a task, including goals, input data, procedures, teacher andlearner roles and task settings.ReferencesDoughty, C. and J. Williams (eds.) 1998. Focus on Form in Classroom Second Language Acquisition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.38
  • ReferencesHalliday, M. A. K. 1985. An Introduction to Functional Grammar. London: Arnold.Krashen, S. 1981. Second Language Acquisition and Second Language Learning. Oxford: Pergamon Press.Krashen, S. 1982. Principles and Practice in Second Language Acquisition. Oxford: Pergamon Press.Krashen, S. and T. Terrell. 1983. The Natural Approach. Oxford: Pergamon Press.Kumaravadivelu, B. 1991. Language learning tasks: Teacher intention and learner interpretation. ELT Journal, 45, 98–117.Kumaravadivelu, B. 1993. The name of the task and the task of naming: Methodological aspects of task-based pedagogy. In G. Crookes and S. Gass (eds) Tasks in a Pedagogical Context. Clevedon, Avon: Multilingual Matters.Larsen-Freeman, D. 2001. Grammar. In R. Carter and D. Nunan (eds) The Cambridge Guide to Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Long, M. H. 1985. A role for instruction in second language acquisition. In K. Hyltenstam and M. Pienemann (eds) Modelling and Assessing Second Language Acquisition. Clevedon, Avon: Multilingual Matters.Long, M. H. and G. Crookes. 1993. Units of analysis in syllabus design: the case for task. In G. Crookes and S. Gass (eds) Tasks in a Pedagogical Context. Clevedon, Avon: Multilingual Matters.Long, M. H. and P. Robinson. 1998. Focus on form: Theory, research and prac- tice. In C. Doughty and J. Williams (eds) Focus on Form in Classroom Second Language Acquisition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Martyn, E. 1996. The influence of task type on the negotiation of meaning in small group work. Paper presented at the Annual Pacific Second Language Research Forum, Auckland, New Zealand.Martyn, E. 2001. The effects of task type on negotiation of meaning in small group work. Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation. Hong Kong: University of Hong Kong.Nunan, D. 1995. ATLAS 4: Learning-Centered Communication. Student’s book 2. Boston: Heinle / Thomson Learning.Nunan, D. 1999. Second Language Teaching and Learning. Boston: Heinle / Thomson Learning.Richards, J. C. with J. Hull and S. Proctor. 1997. New Interchange: Student’s book 1. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Rutherford, W. 1987. Second Language Grammar: Teaching and learning. London: Longman.Swain, M. 1995. Three functions of output in second language learning. In G. Cook and B. Seidlhofer (eds) Principles and Practice in Applied Linguistics: Papers in honour of H. G. Widdowson. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 39
  • 3 Task componentsIntroduction and overviewIn this chapter, the definition of task laid out in Chapter 1 is elaboratedon, and the task framework introduced in Chapter 2 is looked at from aslightly different perspective. What I would like to do in this chapter isto explore the elements that make up a task. These are task goals, inputdata and learner procedures, and they are supported by teacher andlearner roles and the settings in which tasks are undertaken. Three early conceptualizations of task components are useful here.These are Shavelson and Stern (1981), Candlin (1987) and Wright (1987a). Shavelson and Stern (1981) articulated their concept of task-basedlanguage teaching within the context of education in general, rather thanTESOL in particular. Task designers, they suggest, should take into con-sideration the following elements: • Content: the subject matter to be taught. • Materials: the things that learners can observe/manipulate. • Activities: the things that learners and teachers will be doing during a lesson. • Goals: the teachers’ general aims for the task (these are much more general and vague than objectives). • Students: their abilities, needs and interests are important. • Social community: the class as a whole and its sense of ‘groupness’. (Shavelson and Stern 1981: 478)Candlin (1987), whose work was specifically referenced against lan-guage pedagogy, has a similar list. He suggests that tasks should containinput, roles, settings, actions, monitoring, outcomes and feedback. Inputrefers to the data presented for learners to work on. Roles specify therelationship between participants in a task. Setting refers to where thetask takes place – either in the class or in an out-of-class arrangement.Actions are the procedures and sub-tasks to be performed by the learn-ers. Monitoring refers to the supervision of the task in progress.Outcomes are the goals of the task, and feedback refers to the evaluationof the task.40
  • Goals Wright (1987a) is also concerned with tasks in language teaching. Heargues that, minimally, tasks need to contain only two elements. Theseare input data, which may be provided by materials, teachers or learn-ers, and an initiating question, which instructs learners on what to dowith the data. He rejects the notion that objectives or outcomes are oblig-atory on the grounds that a variety of outcomes may be possible and thatthese might be quite different from the ones anticipated by the teacher.(In Chapter 4, we will see that the distinction between convergent tasks,which have a single intended outcome, and divergent tasks, which allowfor multiple outcomes, is a significant one for task-based research.) Wright’s point about the unpredictability of outcomes is well made,and needs to be kept in mind when we consider the role of the learner intask planning and implementation. We should likewise not lose sight ofthe impact of setting, including social community, and feedback on tasks.However, my own belief is that goal is an important task element thatprovides direction, not only to any given task, but to the curriculum asa whole. Drawing on the conceptualizations of Candlin, Wright and others, Ipropose that a minimum specification of task will include goals, inputand procedures, and that these will be supported by roles and settings.This simple model is represented diagrammatically below. Goals → ← Teacher role Input → TASK ← Learner role Procedures → ← Settings Reflect Can you think of any other elements that might contribute to this model of task?Goals‘Goals’ are the vague, general intentions behind any learning task. Theyprovide a link between the task and the broader curriculum. They aremore specific than Halliday’s three macroskills (interpersonal, transac-tional and aesthetic) mentioned in the last chapter, but are more generalthan formal performance objectives. The answer that a teacher mightgive to a question from a visitor to his or her class about why learnersare undertaking a particular task will often take the form of a goal state-ment, for example: 41
  • Task components ‘I want to develop their confidence in speaking.’ ‘I want to develop their personal writing skills.’ ‘I want to encourage them to negotiate information between eachother to develop their interactional skills.’ ‘I want to develop their study skills.’ Goals may relate to a range of general outcomes (communicative, affec-tive or cognitive) or may directly describe teacher or learner behaviour.Another point worth noting is that goals may not always be explicitlystated, although they can usually be inferred from the task itself.Additionally, there is not always a simple one-to-one relationship betweengoals and tasks. In same cases, a complex task such as a simulation withseveral steps and sub-tasks may have more than one underlying goal. It should be noted in passing that goals are not value-free. Embracingone set of goals will entail rejecting others. Emphasizing cognitive goalsover affective ones will give a particular cast to a curriculum or program.As Richards (2001) notes, the choices we make will reflect our ideolo-gies and beliefs about the nature of language and learning, and the pur-poses and functions of education. In developing goals for educational programs, curriculum planners draw on their understanding both of the present and long term needs of learners and of society as well as the planners’ beliefs and ideologies about schools, learners and teachers. These beliefs and values provide the philosophical underpinnings for educational programs and the justification for the kinds of aims they contain. At any given time, however, a number of competing or complementary perspectives are available concerning the focus of the curriculum. (Richards 2001: 113)One early version of a task-based curriculum, the Australian LanguageLevels (ALL) project, used Halliday’s macroskills as the point of depar-ture for curriculum development. The communicative goals in this cur-riculum suggest that language is used for: 1. Establishing and maintaining interpersonal relationships and, through this, the exchange of information, ideas, opinions, atti- tudes and feelings, and to get things done. 2. Acquiring information from more or less ‘public’ sources in the target language (e.g. books, magazines, newspapers, brochures, documents, signs, notices, films, television, slides, tapes, radio, public announcements, lectures or written reports, etc.) and using this information in some way. 3. Listening to, reading, enjoying and responding to creative and imaginative uses of the target language (e.g. stories, poems, songs, rhymes, drama) and, for certain learners, creating them themselves. (Adapted from Clark 1987: 226)42
  • GoalsAs intimated earlier, goals may relate not just to language, but to otheraspects of the learning process. The following classification, again fromthe ALL project, illustrates how goals can be sociocultural, process-oriented or cultural, as well as communicative. Goal type Example Communicative establish and maintain interpersonal relations and through this to exchange information, ideas, opinions, attitudes and feelings and to get things done Sociocultural have some understanding of the everyday life patterns of their contemporary age group in the target language speech community; this will cover their life at home, at school and at leisure Learning-how-to- to negotiate and plan their work over a certain learn time span, and learn how to set themselves realistic objectives and how to devise the means to attain them Language and to have some understanding of the systematic cultural awareness nature of language and the way it works(Adapted from Clark 1987: 227–32)As we have seen, a broad distinction can be drawn between English forsocial purposes and English for transactional purposes – that is, forobtaining goods and services (although in authentic communication,these two purposes are often interwoven). Another distinction that canbe drawn is between general ‘everyday’ English, and English for specificpurposes. Specific purpose courses can be academic or non-academic.Non-academic courses would include courses such as English fortourism. Academic courses can focus either on specific subject areas suchas science and technology or law, or on more general skills for tertiarystudy, such as academic writing. These distinctions can be applied to integrated skills courses or to spe-cific skills courses. For example, a reading program can be designed toequip learners with the skills to carry out the many reading tasks thatoccur in everyday life, from consulting a TV program guide to readingthe sports page of the afternoon newspaper. Another programme mightbe designed to develop the specialized reading skills needed to undertakegraduate study in an English-speaking country. Given the importance ofEnglish throughout the world as a medium of tertiary instruction, it ishardly surprising that a great deal of emphasis has been placed on this 43
  • Task componentssecond, specialized reading goal. Courses or modules for developing lis-tening, speaking and writing can also be divided into those for generaland those for academic purposes. For example, in relation to listening, adistinction could be drawn between courses for understanding the mediaand courses for understanding university lectures. Again, writing coursescan be divided into those concerned with basic functional writing devel-opment and those aimed at more formal writing. A task-based programfor developing basic functional literacy will include things such aswriting notes to the school or teacher, compiling shopping lists, complet-ing postcards and so on. Formal writing skills will include essay andreport writing, writing business letters, and note-taking from lecturesand books. Such formal writing skills require high levels of languageability that many native speakers never master. For foreign languageusers, mastery can bring prestige and economic advancement (Forey andNunan 2002). The most useful goal statements are those that relate to the student notthe teacher, and those that are couched in terms of observable perfor-mance. That is, a statement such as, ‘The learner will give a five minutepresentation on a familiar topic, speaking without notes,’ is preferableto ‘The learner will appreciate contemporary films.’ While ‘appreciation’is important, it is impossible to observe, and extremely difficult tomeasure, as we shall see in Chapter 7 when we examine issues of assess-ment in the task-based curriculum. The focus on learner performance has been an important dimensionto communicative language teaching since its first appearance. Forexample, in Europe, the CLT movement was led by applied linguistsdeveloping conceptual frameworks for the Council of Europe. In one ofthe first documents to emerge from this group, it was stated that a per-formance-based communicative curriculum . . . tries to specify foreign language ability as a skill rather than knowledge. It analyzes what the learner will have to be able to do in the foreign language and determines only in the second place what language-forms (words, structures, etc.) the learners will have to be able to handle in order to do all that has been specified. (van Ek 1977: 5)The most recent work coming out of the Council of Europe adheres tothe performance-based approach. In the introduction to the CommonEuropean Framework the authors suggest that the framework . . . provides a common basis for the elaboration of language syllabuses, curriculum guidelines, examinations, textbooks, etc. across Europe. It describes in a comprehensive way what language learners have to learn to do in order to use a language for44
  • Goals communication and what knowledge and skills they have to develop so as to be able to act effectively. The description also covers the cultural context in which the language is set. The Framework also defines levels of proficiency which allow learners’ progress to be measured at each stage of learning and on a life- long basis. (Council of Europe 2001: 1)The Common European Framework defines three broad levels of lan-guage use (Basic User, Independent User and Proficient User) each ofwhich is broken down into two further levels, giving six levels in all. Thetable below provides global, behavioural descriptors for learners at eachof these six levels. General levels of language use Proficient User (C2) Can understand with ease virtually everything heard or read. Can summarize information from different spoken or written sources, reconstructing arguments and accounts in a coherent presentation. Can express him/herself spontaneously, very fluently and precisely, differentiating finer shades of meaning even in more complex situations. Proficient User (C1) Can understand a wide range of demanding, longer texts, and recognize implicit meaning. Can express him/herself fluently and spontaneously without much obvious searching for expressions. Can use language flexibly and effectively for social, academic and professional purposes. Can produce clear, well-structured, detailed text on complex subjects, showing controlled use of organizational patterns, connectors and cohesive devices. Independent User Can understand the main ideas of complex text (B2) on both concrete and abstract topics, including technical discussions in his/her field of specialization. Can interact with the degree of fluency and spontaneity that makes regular interaction with native speakers quite possible without strain for either party. Can produce clear, detailed text on a wide range of subjects and explain a viewpoint on a topical issue giving the advantages and disadvantages of various options. 45
  • Task components Independent User Can understand the main points of clear standard (B1) input on familiar matters regularly encountered in work, school, leisure etc. Can deal with most situations likely to arise whilst travelling in an area where the language is spoken. Can produce simple connected text on topics which are familiar or of personal interest. Can describe experiences and events, dreams, hopes and ambitions and briefly give reasons and explanations for opinions and plans. Basic User (A2) Can understand sentences and frequently used expressions related to areas of most immediate relevance (e.g. very basic personal and family information, shopping, local geography, employment). Can communicate in simple and routine tasks. Can describe in simple terms aspects of his/her background, immediate environment and matters in areas of immediate need. Basic User (A1) Can understand and use familiar everyday expressions and very basic phrases aimed at the satisfaction of needs of a concrete type. Can introduce him/herself and others and can ask and answer questions about personal details such as where he/she lives, people he/she knows and things he/she has. Can interact in a simple way provided the other person talks slowly and clearly and is prepared to help.(Council of Europe 2001: 24)In the United States, a similar orientation is adopted by the influentialstandards movement. One of the most comprehensive and detailed setsof content standards yet developed within the field of language educa-tion is the Pre-k-12 standards commissioned by TESOL and developedby a team of specialists working within the United States (TESOL 1997).Within this project, standards are defined as follows: . . . standards indicate . . . what students should know and be able to do as a result of instruction.’ [They] . . . list assessable, observable activities that students may perform to show progress toward meeting the designated standard. These progress indicators represent a variety of instructional techniques that may be used by teachers to determine how well students are doing. (TESOL 1997: 16)46
  • InputStandards are elaborated as ‘Sample Progress Indicators’ which set outobservable behaviours that can be used to determine whether studentshave met the standards. From the list below, it can be seen that these arewhat, in the preceding chapter, were called real-world tasks. These areused as the point of departure for designing pedagogical tasks.• obtain, complete and process application forms, such as driver’s license, social security, college entrance• express feelings through drama, poetry or song• make an appointment• defend and argue a position• use prepared notes in an interview or meeting• ask peers for their opinions, preferences and desires• correspond with pen pals, English-speaking acquaintances, friends• write personal essays• make plans for social engagements• shop in a supermarket• engage listener’s attention verbally or non-verbally• volunteer information and respond to questions about self and family• elicit information and ask clarification questions• clarify and restate information as needed• describe feelings and emotions after watching a movie• indicate interests, opinions or preferences related to class projects• give and ask for permission• offer and respond to greetings, compliments, invitations, introduc- tions and farewells• negotiate solutions to problems, interpersonal misunderstandings and disputes• read and write invitations and thank you letters• use the telephone. Reflect Review the goals in your own curriculum or a curriculum with which you are familiar. How comprehensive are these? To what extent are they couched in performance terms?Input‘Input’ refers to the spoken, written and visual data that learners workwith in the course of completing a task. Data can be provided by a teacher,a textbook or some other source. Alternatively, it can be generated by the 47
  • Task componentslearners themselves. Input can come from a wide range of sources, as thefollowing inventory from Hover (1986) shows: letters (formal and informal), newspaper extracts, picture stories, Telecom account, driver’s licence, missing person’s declaration form, social security form, business cards, memo note, photographs, family tree, drawings, shopping lists, invoices, postcards, hotel brochures, passport photos, swop shop cards, street map, menu, magazine quiz, calorie counter, recipe, extract from a play, weather forecast, diary, bus timetable, notice board items, housing request form, star signs, hotel entertainment programme, tennis court booking sheet, extracts from film script, high school year book, note to a friend, seminar programme, newspaper reporter’s notes, UK travel regulations, curriculum vitae, economic graphs.This list, which is by no means exhaustive, illustrates the rich variety ofresources that exist all around us. Most, with a little imagination, can beused as the basis for communicative tasks. The list of items above was used in a set of tasks for developing listen-ing and speaking skills. A similar range of stimulating source materialscan be used for encouraging literacy skills development. Morris andStewart-Dore (1984: 158) make the point that while it is neither neces-sary nor desirable to teach every possible writing style and register, thenumber of writing options typically offered to students can be extendedby introducing the following into the classroom:• articles from newspapers, magazines and journals• reports to different kinds of groups• radio and television scripts and documentaries• puppet plays• news stories and reports• research reports• short stories, poems and plays• press releases• bulletins and newsletters• editorials• progress reports and plans for future development• publicity brochures and posters• instructions and handbooks• recipes• minutes of meetings• scripts of group negotiations• replies to letters and other forms of correspondence• slide/tape presentations48
  • Input• caption books to accompany a visual record of an experience• comic books for entertainment and information sharing.The inclusion as input of such material raises the question of authentic-ity. ‘Authenticity’ in this context refers to the use of spoken and writtenmaterial that has been produced for purposes of communication not forpurposes of language teaching. To my mind it is not a matter of whetheror not authentic materials should be used, but what combination ofauthentic, simulated and specially written materials provide learnerswith optimal learning opportunities. Much has been written about the differences between authentic andspecially written materials. Writing about spoken language, Porter andRoberts (1981) identified the following features as differentiating spe-cially written dialogues from authentic speech. Feature Comment Intonation Speech is marked by unusually wide and frequent pitch movement Received Most speakers on British ELT tapes have an RP pronunciation accent which is different from that which learners will normally hear in Britain Enunciation Words are enunciated with excessive precision Structural repetition Particular structures/functions recur with obtrusive frequency Complete sentences Sentences are short and well formed Distinct turn-taking One speaker waits until the other has finished Pace This is typically slow Quantity Speakers generally say about the same amount Attention signals These ‘uhuh’s’ and ‘mm’s’ are generally missing. Formality Materials are biased towards standardized language; swearing and slang are rare Limited vocabulary Few references to specific, real-world entities and events Too much Generally more explicit reference to people, information objects and experiences than in real language Mutilation Texts are rarely marred by outside noiseSpecially written materials exhibiting the characteristics identified byPorter and Roberts have always had a central place in language learning 49
  • Task componentsfor a very good reason. By simplifying input, they make it easier forlearners to process the language. By increasing the frequency of targetlanguage items, patterns and regularities are made more ostensible tolearners. Slowing down the speed of speech can make it easier to under-stand. This is particularly valuable for beginning learners. However, there is also value in exposing learners to authentic input.Specially written texts and dialogues do not adequately prepare learnersfor the challenge of coping with the language they hear and read in thereal world outside the classroom – nor is that their purpose. If we wantlearners to comprehend aural and written language outside class, weneed to provide them with structured opportunities to engage with suchmaterials inside the classroom. The following extracts have been taken from published course mate-rials. A: Hi. B: Hello. A: I’m Julia. B: Nice to meet you Julia. I’m Malcolm – Malcolm Stephenson. A: Isn’t this a great party, Malcolm? I think this music’s really cool. B: Yes, it is a good party. A: Hey! You’re British, aren’t you? B: Well, yes, I am actually. A: I was in London last year. Do you come from London? B: No, I come from a town called Brighton – it’s quite near London. A: Oh yeah? I’ve been there. I went there on the same trip. We visited some sort of castle on the coast, I think. Would that be right? B: Yes! Brighton Pavilion. (Nunan 1995: 172) A: So, Mark, what do you enjoy doing more than anything else? B: Oh gosh, I think . . . let me see. I guess I’d have to say playing the banjo. A: Playing the . . .? B: Banjo. Yeah . . . A: Yeah? OK. So what’s your greatest ambition in life? B: Been playing, trying to play for . . . Sorry, what? A: Your greatest ambition (yeah) in life. B: Um, to be as great a banjo player as Doc Boggs. A: Doc what? B: Doc Boggs. A: Who on earth is Doc Boggs? B: He’s one of the greats – from Kentucky.50
  • Input A: Whatever! Who do you most admire in the world and why? B: Living, or . . . A: Yeah. B: Oh, um, I don’t really know. I admire how Doc Boggs plays the banjo. (laughter) (Nunan 1995: 152) Reflect Compare these two extracts. What differences can you discern between them? What are the advantages of both as input to learning? How would you use the second extract – the authentic text – in a language lesson?The arguments for using authentic written texts in the classroom aresimilar to those advanced for using authentic spoken texts. In second (asopposed to foreign) language contexts, Brosnan et al. (1984) point outthat the texts learners will need to read in real life are in the environmentaround them – at the bank, in the mailbox, on shop doors and windows,on labels, packets, etc. They do not have to be created by the teacher.Given the richness and variety of these resources, it should be possible forteachers to select authentic written texts that are appropriate to the needs,interests and proficiency levels of their students. Brosnan et al. (1984: 2–3)offer the following justifications for the use of these real-world resources. • The language is natural. By simplifying language or altering it for teaching purposes (limiting structures, controlling vocabulary, etc.) we may risk making the reading task more difficult. We may, in fact, be removing clues to meaning. • It offers the students the chance to deal with small amounts of print which, at the same time, contain complete, meaningful messages. • It provides students with the opportunity to make use of non- linguistic clues (layout, pictures, colours, symbols, the physical setting in which it occurs) and so more easily to arrive at meaning from the printed word. • Adults need to be able to see the immediate relevance of what they do in the classroom to what they need to do outside it, and real-life reading material treated realistically makes the connection obvious.Brown and Menasche (1993) argue that the authentic / non-authenticdistinction is an oversimplification, and that input data can be placed ona continuum from ‘genuinely authentic’ to non-authentic. They suggestthat there are at least five distinguishable points along this continuum: 51
  • Task components • Genuine: created only for the realm of real life, not for the classroom, but used in the classroom for language teaching. • Altered: While there is no meaning change, the original has been altered in other ways (for example, the insertion of glosses, visual resetting, the addition of visuals). • Adapted: Although created for real life, vocabulary and grammatical structures are changed to simplify the text. • Simulated: Although specially written by the author for purposes of language teaching, the author tries to make it look authentic by using characteristics of genuine texts. • Minimal / incidental: Created for the classroom with no attempt to make the material appear genuine.For language programs aimed at developing academic skills, or thosepreparing students for further study, authentic content can be taken fromsubject areas in the school curriculum (Brinton 2003; Snow and Brinton1997). Activities can be adapted from relevant academic disciplines. Byreading in their intended subject areas, students will begin to develop afeel for their chosen discipline. For example, by reading science texts,learners will develop a feel for scientific discourse (i.e. the way explana-tions and arguments are presented by scientists working in the particu-lar branch of the discipline in question). Each area of specialization – science, geography, home economics,physical education, music, art and so on – has its own body of literature,which presents the content of that area in a language style of its own.Once we recognize that different bodies of knowledge have their own lit-erature and language style, we can see that the learning implicationsextend beyond the school scene to the worlds of work and everyday life(see Morris and Stewart-Dore 1984: 21). Reflect Can you envisage any difficulties for a high school English language specialist or university instructor who is asked to help second language learners read science, mathematics or engineering texts? What can the language specialist offer that the content teacher can’t offer?Procedures‘Procedures’ specifies what learners will actually do with the input thatforms the point of departure for the learning task. In considering crite-ria for task selection (and, in the next section, we will look at what52
  • Proceduresresearch has to say on this matter), some issues arise similar to those aswe encountered when considering input. One of these is authenticity, which we have just looked at in relationto input data. While there is widespread (although not necessarily uni-versal) acceptance that authentic input data have a place in the class-room, less attention has been paid to procedural authenticity. Early on,Candlin and Edelhoff (1982) pointed out that the authenticity issueinvolves much more than simply selecting texts from outside the arenaof language teaching, and that the processes brought to bear by learnerson the data should also be authentic. Porter and Roberts (1981) alsomade the point that, while it is possible to use authentic texts in non-authentic ways (for example, turning a newspaper article into a clozepassage), this severely limits the potential of the materials as resourcesfor language learning. Reflect How does this issue relate to the discussion in Chapter 2 on real- world, rehearsal and activation tasks?In considering the task framework set out in Chapter 2, I suggested thattasks could be analyzed in terms of the extent to which they requirelearners to rehearse, in class, the sorts of communicative behaviours theymight be expected to use in genuine communicative interactions outsidethe classroom. This issue of task authenticity is somewhat controversial,as can be seen from the following quotes: Classroom activities should parallel the ‘real world’ as closely as possible. Since language is a tool of communication, methods and materials should concentrate on the message, not the medium. In addition, the purposes of reading should be the same in class as they are in real life: 1) to obtain a specific fact or piece of information (scanning), 2) to obtain the general idea of the author (skimming), 3) to obtain a comprehensive understanding of reading, as in reading a textbook (thorough comprehension), or 4) to evaluate information in order to determine where it fits into our own system of beliefs (critical reading). Our students should become as critical as we are of the purposes for reading, so that they will be able to determine the proper approaches to a reading task. (Clark and Silberstein 1977: 51)In the following quote, Widdowson argues against the notion that class-room procedures should necessarily mirror communicative performancein the real world, stating that: 53
  • Task components . . . what is wanted is a methodology which will . . . provide for communicative competence by functional investment. [Such a methodology] would engage the learners in problem-solving tasks as purposeful activities but without the rehearsal requirement that they should be realistic or ‘authentic’ as natural social behaviour. (Widdowson 1987: 71)Here, Widdowson is advancing an argument in favour of a curriculumconsisting exclusively of tasks with an activation rather than rehearsalrationale. (See the beginning of Chapter 2 for a discussion of the differ-ence between these two rationales.) My own view is that both are equallyvalid. All too often, discussions of authenticity in language teaching arerestricted to authenticity of input data. However, in this section, I havelooked at an equally important issue – that of procedural authenticity.Those procedures that attempt to replicate and rehearse in the classroomthe kinds of things that learners need to do outside of the classroom haveprocedural authenticity. However, a case can be made for the inclusionof non-authentic procedures. Widdowson provides one rationale forsuch procedures above. Another rationale was provided in Chapter 2. Another way of analyzing procedures is in terms of their focus or goal.One widely cited way of characterizing procedural goals is whether theyare basically concerned with skill getting or skill using (Rivers andTemperley 1978). In skill getting, learners master phonological, lexicaland grammatical forms through memorization and manipulation. Inskill using, they apply these skills in communicative interaction. Propo-nents of audiolingualism, with its 3Ps (presentation, practice, produc-tion), assumed that skill getting should logically precede skill using.However, as we saw in Chapters 1 and 2, this assumption is overly sim-plistic and does not accurately reflect the complex inter-relationshipsbetween language acquisition and use. It also overlooks, or denies, thenotion that learners can learn by doing. Reflect How does the skill-getting / skill-using distinction play out in your own classroom or a classroom that is familiar to you? Which has the greater focus? Study the following tasks. Are they designed for skill getting or skill using?54
  • Procedures(Nunan 2001: 34)(Ibid.: 37) 55
  • Task componentsA third way of analyzing learning procedures is into those that focus thelearner on developing accuracy and those that focus on the developmentof fluency. Brumfit (1984: 51) deals with the fluency/accuracy polarity indetail: . . . the demand to produce work for display to the teacher in order that evaluation and feedback could be supplied conflicted directly with the demand to perform adequately in the kind of natural circumstances for which teaching was presumably a preparation. Language display for evaluation tended to lead to a concern for accuracy, monitoring, reference rules, possibly explicit knowledge, problem-solving and evidence of skill getting. In contrast, language use requires fluency, expression rules, a reliance on implicit knowledge and automatic performance. It will on occasion also require monitoring and problem-solving strategies, but these will not be the most prominent features as they tend to be in the conventional model where the student produces, the teacher corrects, and the student tries again.Brumfit goes on to point out that accuracy and fluency are not opposites,but are complementary. However, materials and activities are often devisedas if the two were in conflict, and teachers certainly adjust their behaviourdepending on which one is important to them at any particular point. Skehan (1998) also used accuracy and fluency as central constructs inhis work on task-based language teaching, and added a third element –complexity. He found that different types of task generated differentdegrees of accuracy, fluency and complexity. I will summarize Skehan’swork in the next chapter. A final distinction that can help us to evaluate procedures has to dowith the locus of control. In pattern drills and other skill-getting exercises,control usually rests with the teacher. In role plays, simulations and thelike, the learner has much more control. We shall look in greater detail atteacher and learner roles later in the chapter (see also Nunan and Lamb1996). Before that, however, I want to look at some different task types.Task typesThere are as many different task types as there are people who havewritten on task-based language teaching. In this section, I do not havespace to deal exhaustively with them all, and so have chosen several todescribe and illustrate. One of the earliest curricular applications of TBLT to appear in the lit-erature was the Bangalore project. In this project, three principal tasktypes are used: information gap, reasoning gap, and opinion gap.56
  • Task types 1. Information-gap activity, which involves a transfer of given information from one person to another – or from one form to another, or from one place to another – generally calling for the decoding or encoding of information from or into language. One example is pair work in which each member of the pair has a part of the total information (for example an incomplete picture) and attempts to convey it verbally to the other. Another example is completing a tabular representation with information available in a given piece of text. The activity often involves selection of relevant information as well, and learners may have to meet criteria of completeness and correctness in making the transfer. 2. Reasoning-gap activity, which involves deriving some new information from given information through processes of inference, deduction, practical reasoning, or a perception of relationships or patterns. One example is working out a teacher’s timetable on the basis of given class timetables. Another is deciding what course of action is best (for example cheapest or quickest) for a given purpose and within given constraints. The activity necessarily involves comprehending and conveying information, as an information-gap activity, but the information to be conveyed is not identical with that initially comprehended. There is a piece of reasoning which connects the two. 3. Opinion-gap activity, which involves identifying and articulating a personal preference, feeling, or attitude in response to a given situation. One example is story completion; another is taking part in the discussion of a social issue. The activity may involve using factual information and formulating arguments to justify one’s opinion, but there is no objective procedure for demonstrating outcomes as right or wrong, and no reason to expect the same outcome from different individuals or on different occasions. (Prabhu 1987: 46–7)Another typology that appeared at about the same time was that pro-posed by Pattison (1987), who sets out seven task and activity types.Questions and answersThese activities are based on the notion of creating an information gapby letting learners make a personal and secret choice from a list of lan-guage items which all fit into a given frame (e.g. the location of a personor object). The aim is for learners to discover their classmates’ secretchoice. This activity can be used to practise almost any structure, func-tion or notion. 57
  • Task componentsDialogues and role playsThese can be wholly scripted or wholly improvised. However, ‘If learn-ers are given some choice of what to say, and if there is a clear aim to beachieved by what they say in their role plays, they may participate morewillingly and learn more thoroughly than when they are told to simplyrepeat a given dialogue in pairs’.Matching activitiesHere, the task for the learner is to recognize matching items, or to com-plete pairs or sets. ‘Bingo’, ‘Happy families’ and ‘Split dialogues’ (wherelearners match given phrases) are examples of matching activities.Communication strategiesThese are activities designed to encourage learners to practise communi-cation strategies such as paraphrasing, borrowing or inventing words,using gesture, asking for feedback and simplifying.Pictures and picture storiesMany communication activities can be stimulated through the use of pic-tures (e.g. spot the difference, memory test, sequencing pictures to tell astory).Puzzles and problemsOnce again, there are many different types of puzzles and problems.These require learners to ‘make guesses, draw on their general knowl-edge and personal experience, use their imagination and test their powersof logical reasoning’.Discussions and decisionsThese require the learner to collect and share information to reach a deci-sion (e.g. to decide which items from a list are essential to have on adesert island).More recently, Richards (2001: 162) has proposed the following typol-ogy of pedagogical tasks: • jigsaw tasks These tasks involve learners in combining different pieces of information to form a whole (e.g. three individuals or groups may have three different parts of a story and have to piece the story together).58
  • Task types • information-gap tasks These are tasks in which one student or group of students has one set of information and another student or group has a complementary set of information. They must negotiate and find out what the other party’s information is in order to complete an activity. • problem-solving tasks Students are given a problem and a set of information. They must arrive at a solution to the problem. There is generally a single resolution of the outcome. • decision-making tasks Students are given a problem for which there are a number of possible outcomes and they must choose one through negotiation and discussion. • opinion exchange tasks Learners engage in discussion and exchange of ideas. They do not need to reach agreement.All of these typologies are based on an analysis of communicative lan-guage use. An alternative method of classifying tasks is to group themaccording to the strategies underpinning them. The following schemeproposes five different strategy types: cognitive, interpersonal, linguistic,affective and creative. COGNITIVE CLASSIFYING Putting things that are similar together in groups Example: Study a list of names and classify them into male and female PREDICTING Predicting what is to come in the learning process Example: Look at the unit title and objectives and predict what will be learned INDUCING Looking for patterns and regularities Example: Study a conversation and discover the rule for forming the simple past tense TAKING NOTES Writing down the important information in a text in your own words CONCEPT MAPPING Showing the main ideas in a text in the form of a map INFERENCING Using what you know to learn something new DISCRIMINATING Distinguishing between the main idea and supporting information ➳ 59
  • Task components DIAGRAMMING Using information from a text to label a diagram INTERPERSONAL CO-OPERATING Sharing ideas and learning with other students Example: Work in small groups to read a text and complete a table ROLE PLAYING Pretending to be somebody else and using the language for the situation you are in Example: You are a reporter. Use the information from the reading to interview the writer LINGUISTIC CONVERSATIONAL Using expressions to start conversations and PATTERNS keep them going Example: Match formulaic expressions to situations PRACTISING Doing controlled exercises to improve knowledge and skills Example: Listen to a conversation, and practice it with a partner USING CONTEXT Using the surrounding context to guess the meaning of an unknown word, phrase, or concept SUMMARIZING Picking out and presenting the major points in a text in summary form SELECTIVE LISTENING Listening for key information without trying to understand every word Example: Listen to a conversation and identify the number of speakers SKIMMING Reading quickly to get a general idea of a text Example: Decide if a text is a newspaper article, a letter or an advertisement ➳60
  • Task types AFFECTIVE PERSONALIZING Learners share their own opinions, feelings and ideas about a subject. Example: Read a letter from a friend in need and give advice SELF-EVALUATING Thinking about how well you did on a learning task, and rating yourself on a scale REFLECTING Thinking about ways you learn best CREATIVE BRAINSTORMING Thinking of as many new words and ideas as one can Example: Work in a group and think of as many occupations as you can(Nunan 1999) Reflect Review a textbook with which you are familiar and identify as many of the above strategies as you can.The typologies introduced so far focus mainly on tasks for developingoral language skills. An early strategies-based typology for developingreading skills was proposed by Grellet (1981), who identified three maintypes of strategy: • sensitizing • improving reading speed • from skimming to scanning. Sensitizing is sub-categorized into: • making inferences • understanding relations within the sentence • linking sentences and ideas. From skimming to scanning includes: • predicting • previewing • anticipating • skimming • scanning. Grellet (1981: 12–13) 61
  • Task componentsClassroom tasks exploiting these strategies include:• ordering a sequence of pictures• comparing texts and pictures• matching and using illustrations• completing a document• mapping it out• jigsaw reading• reorganizing the information• comparing several texts• completing a document• summarizing• note taking.A more recent and far more comprehensive set of reading strategies is pre-sented by Lai (1997). Lai argues that by matching strategies, texts andreading purposes it is possible for second language readers to significantlyincrease both their reading speed, and also their comprehension. The strat-egies in her typology, along with an explanatory gloss, is set out below. Strategy Comment 1. Having a purpose It is important for students to have a clear purpose and to keep in mind what they want to gain from the text. 2. Previewing Conducting a quick survey of the text to identify the topic, the main idea, and the organization of the text. 3. Skimming Looking quickly through the text to get a general idea of what it is about. 4. Scanning Looking quickly through a text in order to locate specific information. 5. Clustering Reading clusters of words as a unit. 6. Avoiding bad habits Avoiding habits such as reading word by word. 7. Predicting Anticipating what is to come. 8. Reading actively Asking questions and then reading for answers. ➳62
  • Task types 9. Inferring Identifying ideas that are not explicitly stated. 10. Identifying genres Identifying the overall organizational pattern of a text. 11. Identifying paragraph Identifying the organizational structure of a paragraph, for example, whether it follows an inductive or deductive pattern. 12. Identifying sentence Identifying the subject and main verb in 12. structure complex sentences. 13. Noticing cohesive Assigning correct referents to proforms,2 14. devices and identifying the function of conjunctions. 14. Inferring unknown Using context as well as parts of words 14. vocabulary (e.g. prefixes, suffixes and stems) to work out the meaning of unknown words. 15. Identifying figurative Understanding the use of figurative language 14. language and metaphors. 16. Using background Using what one already knows to understand 14. knowledge new ideas. 17. Identifying style and Understanding the writer’s purpose in using 14. its purpose different stylistic devices such as a series of short or long sentences. 18. Evaluating Reading critically, and assessing the truth value of textual information. 19. Integrating Tracking ideas that are developed across the 14. information text through techniques such as highlighting and note-taking. 20. Reviewing Looking back over a text and summarizing it. 21. Reading to present Understanding the text fully and then presenting it to others.(Adapted from Lai 1997)2 Proforms are the second item of an anaphoric reference tie. They can be pronouns: ‘John left the room. He was sick of the party.’, or demonstratives: ‘John left the room. This is because he was sick of the party.’ 63
  • Task components Reflect Review a textbook or set of materials for teaching reading, and identify as many of the strategies set out above as you can.Teacher and learner roles‘Role’ refers to the part that learners and teachers are expected to playin carrying out learning tasks as well as the social and interpersonal rela-tionships between the participants. In this section, I will look first atlearner roles and then at teacher roles. In their comprehensive analysis of approaches and methods in lan-guage teaching, Richards and Rodgers (1986) devote considerable atten-tion to learner and teacher roles. They point out that a method (and, inour case, a task) will reflect assumptions about the contributions thatlearners can make to the learning process. The following table is basedon the analysis carried out by Richards and Rodgers. (Appendix A givesfurther details.) Approach Roles Oral Situational learner listens to teacher and repeats; no control over content or methods Audiolingual learner has little control; reacts to teacher direction; passive, reactive role Communicative learner has an active, negotiative role; should contribute as well as receive Total Physical Response learner is a listener and performer; little influence over content and none over methodology The Silent Way learners learn through systematic analysis; must become independent and autonomous Community Language learners are members of a social group or Learning community; move from dependence to autonomy as learning progresses The Natural Approach learners play an active role and have a relatively high degree of control over content language production Suggestopedia learners are passive, have little control over content or methods64
  • Teacher and learner rolesIt is not necessary to have a detailed knowledge of these various methodsto see the rich array of learner roles that they entail. These include:• the learner is a passive recipient of outside stimuli• the learner is an interactor and negotiator who is capable of giving as well as taking• the learner is a listener and performer who has little control over the content of learning• the learner is involved in a process of personal growth• the learner is involved in a social activity, and the social and interper- sonal roles of the learner cannot be divorced from psychological learn- ing processes• the learner must take responsibility for his or her own learning, devel- oping autonomy and skills in learning-how-to-learn.This last point raises the important issue of learners developing anawareness of themselves as learners, which was also raised in Chapter 2.There is growing evidence that an ability to identify one’s preferredlearning style, and reflect on one’s own learning strategies and processes,makes one a better learner (see, for example, Oxford 1990; Reid 1995).Becoming sensitive to a range of learning processes is important in situ-ations where task-based learning replaces more traditional forms ofinstruction. If learners do not appreciate the rationale behind what tothem may appear a radical new way of learning, they may reject theapproach. There is some evidence to suggest that ‘good’ language learners sharecertain characteristics. The following list, adapted from Rubin andThomson (1982), shows that the ‘good’ language learner is critical,reflective and autonomous. (See also Benson 2002; Nunan and Pill2002.) ➳ 65
  • Task components Good language learners . . . Implications for teachers . . . find their own way Help learners to discover ways of learning that work best for them, for example how they best learn vocabulary items. . . . organize information Develop ways for learners to organize about language what they have learned, through making notes and charts, grouping items and displaying them for easy reference. . . . are creative Encourage learners to experiment with different ways of creating and using language, for example with new ways of using words, playing with different arrangements of sounds and structures, inventing imaginative texts and playing language games. . . . make their own Facilitate active learning by getting opportunities students to interact with fellow learners and with you, asking questions, listening regularly to the language, reading different kinds of texts and practising writing. . . . learn to live with Require learners to work things out for uncertainty themselves using resources such as dictionaries. . . . use mnemonics Help learners find quick ways of recalling what they have learned, for example through rhymes, word associations, word classes, particular contexts of occurrence, experiences and personal memories. . . . make errors work Teach learners to live with errors and help them learn from their errors. . . . use their linguistic Where appropriate, help learners make knowledge comparisons with what they know about language from their mother tongue as well as building on what they have already learned in the new language. ➳66
  • Teacher and learner roles . . . let the context help them Help learners realize the relationships that exist between words, sounds and structures, developing their capacity to guess and infer meaning from the surrounding context and from their background knowledge. . . . learn to make intelligent Develop learners’ capacity to work out guesses meanings and to guess on the basis of probabilities of occurrence. . . . learn formalized routines Encourage learners to memorize routines, whole phrases and idioms. . . . learn production Help learners not to be so concerned techniques with accuracy that they do not develop the capacity to be fluent. . . . use different styles of Develop learners’ ability to speech and writing differentiate between styles of speech and writing, both productively and receptively. Reflect To what extent do the materials and tasks you use encourage or allow learners to explore and apply strategies such as these?Learners who apply the kinds of strategies set out in the box above haveadopted an active approach towards their learning. They see themselvesas being in control of their own learning rather than as passive recipientsof content provided by the teacher or the textbook. Many will find waysof activating their learning out of class. (See Nunan and Pill 2002 for aninventory of ways in which language can be activated out of class.) Teacher roles and learner roles are two sides of a coin. Giving thelearners a more active role in the classroom requires the teacher to adopta different role. Problems are likely to arise if there is a mismatch between the role per-ceptions of learners and teachers. According to Breen and Candlin(1980) the teacher has three main roles in the communicative classroom.The first is to act as a facilitator of the communicative process, the secondis to act as a participant, and the third is to act as an observer and learner.If the learners see the teacher as someone who should be providingexplicit instruction and modelling of the target language, and the teachersees him or herself as a facilitator and guide, then conflict may arise. In 67
  • Task componentssuch a situation the teacher may need to strike a balance between theroles that she feels appropriate and those demanded by the students. Reflect What role for the teacher is implicit in the following statement? Is this attitude a reasonable one, or somewhat extreme? The teacher as teacher is necessary only when the class is attempting to resolve a language problem, for it is only in this situation that the teacher is automatically assumed to possess more knowledge than the students. This role can be minimized if the students’ attack strategies and reading skills have been effectively developed. If the task is realistic and the students have learned to adjust their reading strategies according to the task, there should be little need for teacher intervention. (Clarke and Silberstein 1977: 52).The best way of exploring the interplay between roles and tasks is to goto where the action is: the classroom itself. The two extracts that followwere taken from tasks designed to facilitate oral interaction. However,the roles of both teacher and learners are quite different.Extract 1T: Stephen’s Place, OK. So Myer’s is on the corner. Here’s the corner, OK. One corner is here and one corner is here. Two corners, OK. Can you all see the corners? Understand the corner? Can you all see the corners? This is a corner, and this is a corner here. OK? One, two. And here is the corner of the table.S: And here?T: Corner, yes.S: Corner, yeah?T: OK, Maria, where is the corner of your desk?S: Desk?T: Your desk.S: This one, this one.T: Corner? Your desk, yes, one corner.S: Here.T: Four corners.S: Oh, four.T: Yeah, four corners. Right, one . . .S: One, two (two), three (three), four.68
  • Teacher and learner rolesT: Four, four corners, yeah, on the desk. Good. OK. And where’s one corner of the room? Point to one corner. Yeah, that’s one corner. Yes. Another one – two, yeah. Hung, three? Francey, four. Down on the ground. Yeah, four corners.Extract 2S: China, my mother is a teacher and my father is a teacher. Oh, she go finish, by bicycle, er, go to . . .S: House?S: No house, go to . . .S: School?S: My mother . . .T: MmmS: . . . go to her mother.T: Oh, your grandmother.S: My grandmother. Oh, yes, by bicycle, by bicycle, oh, is, em, accident [gestures].T: In water?S: In water, yeah.T: In a river!S: River, yeah, river. Oh, yes, um, dead.Ss: Dead! Dead! Oh!In extract 1, the teacher plays the role of ringmaster. He asks the ques-tions (most of these are display questions which require the learners toprovide answers which the teacher already knows. The only student-initiated interaction is on a point of vocabulary. In the second extract, the learners have a more proactive role. Theteacher here acts as a ‘scaffolder’ providing a supporting framework forthe learner who is struggling to express herself. The extract is a niceexample of what McCarthy and Walsh (2003) call the ‘classroomcontext’ mode of interaction. In classroom context mode, opportunities for genuine, real-world-type discourse are frequent and the teacher plays a less prominent role,taking a back seat and allowing learners all the space they need. Theprincipal role of the teacher is to listen and support the interaction,which often takes on the appearance of a casual conversation outside theclassroom. (McCarthy and Walsh 2003) The danger here is that unpre-dictable, uncomfortable, and controversial content might arise (such as‘death’ in the extract above), which could disrupt or even derail thelesson. This is one possible reason why many teachers avoid this modeof interaction, and retain a high degree of control. Recording and reflecting on one’s teaching can be illuminating 69
  • Task components(and sometimes depressing!). Here are some comments from a group ofteachers who had recorded, transcribed and analyzed a recently taughttask-based language lesson. The teachers were asked to reflect on whatthey had learned about their teaching as a result of recording andtranscribing the lesson. Interestingly, all of the comments reveal attitudestowards teacher/learner roles.• As teachers we share an anxiety about ‘dominating’ and so a common assumption that we are too intrusive, directive, etc.• I need to develop skills for responding to the unexpected and to exploit this to realize the full potential of the lesson.• There are umpteen aspects which need improving. There is also the effort of trying to respond to contradictory notions about teaching (e.g. intervention versus non-intervention).• I had been making a conscious effort to be non-directive, but was far more directive than I had thought.• Using small groups and changing groups can be perplexing and counter-productive, or helpful and stimulating. There is a need to plan carefully to make sure such changes are positive.• I have come to a better realization of how much listening the teacher needs to do.• The teacher’s role in facilitating interaction is extremely important for all types of classes. How do you teach teachers this?• I need to be more aware of the assumptions underlying my practice.• I discovered I was over-directive and dominant.• Not to worry about periods of silence in the classroom.• I have a dreadful tendency to overload.• I praise students, but it is rather automatic. There is also a lot of teacher talk in my lessons.• I give too many instructions.• I discovered that, while my own style is valuable, it leads me to view issues in a ‘blinkered’ way. I need to analyze my own and others’ styles and ask why I do it that way. Reflect In what ways are some of the issues dealt with earlier in the chapter reflected in these comments?Settings‘Settings’ refers to the classroom arrangements specified or implied in thetask. It also requires consideration of whether the task is to be carried70
  • Settingsout wholly or partly outside the classroom. A wide range of configura-tions is possible in the communicative classroom, although practical con-siderations such as class size can constrain what is possible in practice.The following diagram from Wright (1987: 58) captures the differentways in which learners might be grouped physically within the class-room.(Wright 1987: 58)Anderson and Lynch (1988) cite second language acquisition research(which we will look at in the next chapter) to argue for an emphasis ongroup work in language learning. We might wish to use group-based work for general pedagogic reasons, such as a belief in the importance of increasing the cooperation and cohesiveness among students. Then there are more specifically language oriented arguments: classroom researchers such as Pica and Doughty (1985) have offered evidence for the positive role of group work in promoting a linguistic environment likely to assist L2 learning. (Anderson and Lynch 1988: 59)In considering settings for task-based learning, it is useful to distinguishbetween ‘mode’ and ‘environment’. Learning ‘mode’ refers to whetherthe learner is operating on an individual or a group basis. If operatingon an individual basis, is the learner self-paced but teacher-directed, or 71
  • Task componentsentirely self-directed? If the learner is operating as part of a group, is thetask mainly for whole class, small group or pair work? Each of these con-figurations has implications for task design. ‘Environment’ refers to where the learning actually takes place. Itmight be a conventional classroom in a school or language centre, a com-munity class, a workplace setting, a self-access centre, or a multi-medialanguage centre. Until comparatively recently, it was assumed that learn-ing would take place inside a conventional classroom. However, theadvent of technology, and particularly the ‘anywhere/anytime’ learningpossibilities offered by Web-based instruction, is forcing a reconceptual-ization of what we mean by the concept ‘classroom’. These changes challenge our self-concept as foreign language teachers, because much more than in the past, we are now called upon to redefine our roles as educators, since we need to mediate between the world of the classroom and the world of natural language acquisition. (Legutke 2000: 1)There is increasing interest in the world outside the classroom as anenvironment for learning. Again, technology, including satellite andcable television and the Internet, and increasingly mobile workforcesare facilitating this development in foreign language learning settingswhere instruction has traditionally been confined to the classroom.Tasks that use the community as a resource have three particular ben-efits: 1. they provide learners with opportunities for genuine interactions which have a real-life point to them 2. learners can adopt communicative roles which bypass the teacher as intermediary 3. they can change the in-class role relationships between teacher and pupils. (Strevens 1987: 171)While it is conventional wisdom that learners need to apply their lan-guage skills outside the classroom in order to progress, surprisingly littleattention has been paid to learners’ views on the opportunities they havefor practising / learning a language outside of the classroom. In order toaddress this gap, Nunan and Pill (2002) investigated opportunitiesafforded to a group of adult learners in Hong Kong to activate their lan-guage out of class. They also investigated which opportunities were prin-cipally to obtain further practice, and which were used for authenticinteraction as part of their daily lives. The study found that learners havea wide range of exposure to out-of-class English (65 different types of72
  • Referencespractice opportunities were documented), but that they find it difficult todistinguish between activities which are simply part of their lives andthose that provide specific language practice. Reflect Consider your own approach to classroom tasks. Which student configurations do you favour? Why do you favour some ways of organizing learning over others? What opportunities are there, if any, for using the wider community as a resource for learning?ConclusionIn this chapter, I have looked at the core task elements of goals, inputand procedures, along with the supporting elements of teacher / learnerroles and settings. I dealt with important constructs within TBLT, includ-ing the relationship between real-world and pedagogic tasks, text andtask authenticity, and the place of learning strategies within the task-based classroom. In the next chapter, I will look at the research basis fortask-based language teaching.ReferencesAnderson, A. and T. Lynch. 1988. Listening. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Benson, P. 2002. Teaching and Researching Autonomy in Language Learning. London: Longman.Breen, M. and C. Candlin. 1980. The essentials of a communicative curriculum in language teaching. Language Learning, 1, 2, 89–112.Brinton, D. 2003. Content-based instruction. In D. Nunan (ed.) Practical English Language Teaching. New York: McGraw-Hill.Brosnan, D., K. Brown and S. Hood. 1984. Reading in Context. Adelaide: National Curriculum Resource Centre.Brown, S. and L. Menasche. 1993. Authenticity in materials design. Paper pre- sented at the 1993 International TESOL Convention, Atlanta, Georgia. Cited in Helgeson, M. 2003. Listening. In D. Nunan (ed.) Practical English Language Teaching. New York: McGraw-Hill.Brumfit, C. 1984. Communicative Methodology in Language Teaching. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Candlin, C. 1987. Towards task-based language learning. In C. Candlin and D. Murphy (eds) Language Learning Tasks. Englewood Cliffs NJ: Prentice- Hall.Candlin, C. and C. Edelhoff. 1982. Challenges: Teacher’s Book. London: Longman. 73
  • Task componentsClark, J. 1987. Curriculum Renewal in School Foreign Language Learning. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Clark, M. and S. Silberstein. 1977. Towards a realization of psycholinguistic principles in the ESL reading class. Language Learning, 27, 1, 48–65.Council of Europe. 2001. Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: Learning, teaching, assessment. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Forey, G. and D. Nunan. 2002. The role of language and culture within the accountancy workplace. In C. Barron, N. Bruce and D. Nunan (eds) Knowledge and Discourse: Towards an ecology of language. London: Longman.Grellet, F. 1981. Developing Reading Skills. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Hover, D. 1986. Think Twice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Lai, J. 1997. Reading Strategies: a study guide. Hong Kong: Chinese University of Hong Kong.Legutke, M. 2000. Redesigning the foreign language classroom: a critical per- spective on information technology (IT) and educational change. Plenary presentation, International Language in Education Conference, University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, December 2000.McCarthy, M. and S. Walsh. 2003. Discourse. In D. Nunan (ed.) Practical English Language Teaching. New York: McGraw-Hill.Morris, A. and N. Stewart-Dore. 1984. Learning to Learn from Text: Effective reading in the content areas. Sydney: Addison-Wesley.Nunan, D. 1995. ATLAS 4: Learning-Centered Communication. Teacher’s extended edition. Boston MA: Heinle / Thomson.Nunan, D. 1999. Second Language Teaching and Learning. Boston: Heinle / Thomson.Nunan, D. 2001. Expressions: Student book 3. Boston MA: Heinle / Thomson.Nunan, D. and C. Lamb. 1996. The Self-Directed Teacher. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Nunan, D. and J. Pill. 2002. Adult learners’ perceptions of out-of-class access to English. Unpublish manuscript, the English Centre, University of Hong Kong.Oxford, R. 1990. Language Learning Strategies: What every teacher should know. Rowley Mass.: Newbury House.Pattison, P. 1987. Developing Communication Skills. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Porter, D. and J. Roberts. 1981. Authentic listening activities. English Language Teaching Journal, 36, 1, 37–47.Prabhu, N. 1987. Second Language Pedagogy: a perspective. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Reid, J. (ed.) 1995. Learning styles in the ESL/EFL Classroom. Boston MA: Heinle/Thomson.Richards, J. C. 2001. Curriculum Development in Language Teaching. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Richards, J. and T. Rodgers. 1986. Second edition Approaches and Methods in Language Teaching. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.74
  • ReferencesRivers, W. and M. Temperley. 1978. A Practical Guide to the Teaching of English as a Second or Foreign Language. New York: Oxford University Press.Rubin, J. and I. Thomson. 1982. How to Be a More Successful Language Learner. Boston MA: Heinle.Shavelson, R. and P. Stern. 1981. Research on teachers’ pedagogical thoughts, judgments, decisions and behavior. Review of Educational Research, 51, 4, 455–98.Skehan, P. 1998. A Cognitive Approach to Language Learning. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Snow, M. A. and D. Brinton (eds). 1997. The Content-Based Classroom: Perspectives on integrating language and content. New York: Longman.Strevens, P. 1987. Interaction outside the classroom: Using the community. In W. Rivers (ed.) Interactive Language Teaching. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.TESOL. 1997. ESL Standards for Pre-K-12 Students. Alexandria VA: TESOL.van Ek, J. 1977. The Threshold Level for Modern Language Learning in Schools. London: Longman.Widdowson, H. G. 1987. Aspects of syllabus design. In M. Tickoo (ed.) Language Syllabuses: State of the art. Singapore: RELC.Wright, T. 1987a. Roles of Teachers and Learners. Oxford. Oxford University Press.Wright, T. 1987b. Instructional task and discoursal outcome in the L2 class- room. In C. Candlin and D. Murphy (eds) Language Learning Tasks. Englewood Cliffs NJ: Prentice-Hall. 75
  • 4 An empirical basis for task-based language teachingIntroduction and overviewOne of the things that differentiates task-based language teaching fromearlier methodological proposals is that it is supported by a rich andgrowing research agenda. Some of the more idiosyncratic approaches ofthe 1960s and 1970s may have attracted many devotees during theheight of their popularity. However, little, if any, empirical research wasconducted into their effectiveness. A possible exception was audiolin-gualism, although research carried out into the effectiveness of thisapproach in comparison with other methods was largely inconclusive(for a review see Bailey 1999; Nunan 2003). In this chapter, I will focus principally on psycholinguistically orientedresearch, looking in particular at two influential hypotheses: the inputhypothesis and the output hypothesis. I will also examine the importantissue of task difficulty, exploring the different factors that make one taskmore difficult than another. Chapter 5 will also review research, but will focus exclusively onresearch related to the place of a focus on form in task-based languageteaching. It will thus be more circumscribed than the present chapter.Early psycholinguistic modelsAround the mid-1980s, a number of controversial hypotheses of lan-guage acquisition were proposed by Stephen Krashen. Although theycame under concerted attack almost from the moment they were firstpublished, to this day they remain popular, widely cited and influential,particularly in North America. They have also had a major influence ontask-based language teaching, and for this reason deserve some attention. Krashen (1981, 1982) based his hypotheses on a series of studiesknown as the ‘morpheme order studies’ (Dulay and Burt 1973, 1974).These studies investigated the acquisition of a number of key grammat-ical morphemes in English (these included such items as third person ‘s’,the copula, the -ing form of the verb and the article system). Thesestudies showed that the morphemes were acquired in pretty much the76
  • Early psycholinguistic modelssame order by learners regardless of their first language. The acquisitionorder was also similar regardless of the age of the learners. Finally, it wasfound that the order varied from the order of instruction, and that itcould not be ‘overturned’ by instruction. Data from these studies led Krashen to formulate four hypotheses. Theseare the acquisition-learning hypothesis, the natural order hypothesis, themonitor hypothesis and the input hypothesis.The acquisition-learning hypothesisThe acquisition-learning hypothesis claims that there are two psycholin-guistic processes functioning in second language acquisition. These areconscious learning and subconscious acquisition. Subconscious acquisi-tion is similar to the process that drives first language acquisition and isactivated when the individual is focused on using the language for com-munication. Conscious learning involves the learning about the languagethrough rule memorization and so on. What made Krashen’s view con-troversial was his insistence that these are two totally separate processes,that conscious learning could not ‘bleed into’ subconscious acquisition,and that communicative competence in a second or foreign languagecould only be acquired through subconscious acquisition. A very important point that also needs to be stated is that learning does not ‘turn into’ acquisition. The idea that we first learn a new rule, and eventually, through practice, acquire it, is widespread and may seem to some people intuitively obvious. This model of the acquisition process was first presented to me when I was a student of TESL, and seemed very sensible at the time. It was, I thought, exactly the way I learned languages myself. (Krashen 1982: 83) . . . [However] despite our feelings that internalization does occur, the theory predicts that it does not, except in a trivial way. Language acquisition . . . happens in one way, when the acquirer understands input containing a structure that the acquirer is ‘due’ to acquire. . . . There is no necessity for previous conscious knowledge of a rule. (Krashen 1982: 83: 4)The implication of the acquisition-learning hypothesis for TBLT is thattime in the classroom should be devoted to opportunities for subcon-scious acquisition rather than conscious learning. Learners should beengaged in meaning-focused, communicative tasks rather than form-focused drills and exercises. The hypothesis thus favours the ‘strong’interpretation of TBLT. (My own position is that there is a place for 77
  • An empirical basis for task-based language teachingform-focused instruction. I set out my position and give reasons for it inChapter 5.)The natural order hypothesisThis hypothesis follows directly from the findings of the morpheme orderstudies that learners appear to acquire key grammatical features of atarget language in a particular order regardless of their first language andregardless of the order in which these features have been presentedthrough formal instruction. The hypothesis states that the order is deter-mined by a ‘natural order’ or ‘inbuilt syllabus’ that derives from thenature of the target language and not from some contrast between alearner’s first language and the one he or she is attempting to acquire(Krashen does hedge his bets a little on this particular hypothesis, statingthat this is a general tendency, and not every learner will acquire gram-matical structures in the identical order). The implications of the natural order hypothesis for TBLT are notimmediately apparent. In fact, the findings of the morpheme order andother acquisition order studies have led in two diametrically oppositedirections. One line of argument has it that we should retain a grammat-ically sequenced syllabus, but that the sequence should mirror the‘natural order’ as revealed by research rather than the order as deter-mined by traditional grammatical analysis. The other argument leads inthe other direction, stating that if there is a natural order that cannot bechanged by instruction then there is little point in trying to sequence thegrammar; exposure, and opportunities to use the language will be suffi-cient to trigger the acquisition process. This is largely the position of the‘strong’ interpreters of TBLT described in Chapter 1.The monitor hypothesisAccording to this hypothesis, conscious learning has a limited functionin second language acquisition. It cannot be used to generate language,but only to monitor language that is subconsciously acquired and subse-quently generated. Through monitoring, we can make changes to a pieceof language, but only after it has been produced. The three conditionsunder which the monitor can be used successfully are:1. the speaker or writer has enough time to exercise the monitor2. the speaker or writer is focused on form3. the speaker or writer knows the rule.The implications of the monitor hypothesis are similar to those for theacquisition-learning hypothesis. To maximize opportunities for acquisi-78
  • Interaction, output and the negotiation of meaningtion, class time should be devoted to meaning-focused tasks, and learn-ers should be encouraged not to monitor their output.The input hypothesisThis hypothesis is one of Krashen’s most controversial. It states that weacquire languages when we understand messages (input) in the targetlanguage that are just a little beyond our current level of acquired com-petence. According to this hypothesis, in order for learners to progressfrom one stage of acquisition to the next, they need to comprehend lan-guage that includes a structure at the stage beyond that of their currentlevel. Comprehension itself comes from the context in which the lan-guage occurs as well as from extra-linguistic information. In the earlystages of the acquisition process, comprehension is aided by restrictinglanguage to the ‘here and now’; in other words, by only referring tothings and events that are physically present in the learner’s environ-ment. The input hypothesis suggests that reception should precede produc-tion, and that extensive opportunities for listening and reading shouldprecede speaking and writing, particularly in the early stages of theacquisition process. Krashen’s hypotheses generated a great deal of controversy when theywere first proposed, and they remain controversial to this day. In the nextsection, we look at an alternative to the input hypothesis; this is ahypothesis with the rather tongue-in-cheek label of the ‘output hypoth-esis’. Reflect To what extent does your own experience (a) as a language teacher and (b) as a language learner lead you to agree with / disagree with Krashen’s hypotheses?Interaction, output and the negotiation of meaningOne of the first researchers to emphasize the importance of output wasHatch (1978), who argued that we learn how to converse in a secondlanguage by having conversations. Rather than learning grammaticalstructures, and then deploying these in conversation, Hatch argued thatinteraction should come first, and that out of this interaction grammat-ical knowledge would develop. Ellis (1984: 95) had a similar perspective,arguing that: 79
  • An empirical basis for task-based language teaching Interaction contributes to development because it is the means by which the learner is able to crack the code. This takes place when the learner can infer what is said even though the message contains linguistic items that are not yet part of his competence and when the learner can use the discourse to help him/her modify or supplement the linguistic knowledge already used in production.In 1985, Merrill Swain, a Canadian researcher, published an eloquentassault upon the input hypothesis, proposing an alternative, the ‘outputhypothesis’. Swain based her hypothesis on a substantial body ofresearch carried out in Canada into the effects of immersion andcontent-based education. In these programs, students receive instructionin the regular subjects in the curriculum – history, mathematics, science,etc. – through a second language and, in consequence, receive hugeamounts of comprehensible input. Despite this input, the students do notacquire the levels of fluency in the language predicted by the inputhypothesis. Swain argued that, while input is necessary, it is not sufficient foracquisition; in addition to input, learners need opportunities to producethe target language. This is because production involves a differentpsycholinguistic process from comprehension. In comprehending anutterance in a target language, one can largely bypass the syntax and ‘gofor meaning’. However, in order to produce a comprehensible utterance,one has to ‘syntacticize’ the utterance, that is, encode it grammatically. Long (1985) also incorporated a role for output in his model of secondlanguage acquisition, although that role is different from the way it wasconceived by Swain. Long argues that linguistic conversational adjust-ments (which are also known as the negotiation of meaning) promotecomprehensible input because such adjustments are usually triggered byan indication of non-comprehension, requiring the speaker to reformu-late his or her utterance to make it more comprehensible. If com-prehensible input promotes acquisition, then it follows that linguistic/conversational adjustments promote acquisition. (It should be noted thatnegotiation of meaning is a natural aspect of everyday conversation – sonatural, in fact, that we rarely notice ourselves doing it.) Investigators have identified a four-stage process in the negotiation ofmeaning. The first stage is a ‘trigger’ that begins the sequence. This is fol-lowed by a ‘signal’ that draws attention to a communication breakdown.Stage 3 is a ‘response’, in which the speaker attempts to repair the mis-communication. More than one response may be needed at this stage torepair the breakdown. Finally, the ‘follow-up’ marks the closing of thesequence (Pica et al. 1991). The following examples from Martyn (2001) illustrate the four-stageprocedure.80
  • Interaction, output and the negotiation of meaning She’s a loner. Trigger Sorry? Signal She stay away from others. Response How about the other choices then? Follow-up I think the ah, drugs problem, ah ah, is Trigger related to the triad society. Triad society? Signal Yes. Response Triad society. I’m not sure. (pause) . . . But Follow-up another thing//(Martyn 2001: 33)These two extracts are examples of ‘simple’ or ‘one signal’ negotiationof meaning sequences (Ellis, Basturkmen and Loewen 2001; Shehadeh1999). However, many negotiation of meaning sequences are longer andmore complex than this. The following extract – again from Martyn – ofa conversation between three people includes five signals and nineresponses. ➳ 81
  • An empirical basis for task-based language teaching F2 That is ah, some movie or comic ah, ah, insert, Trigger / insert some ah, wrong concept about death. In Signal 1 the comic books and movie ah many characters die, they die and then they can, ah, how to say, live again? F1 Live again. Response 1 F2 How to say live again? Signal 2 F3 Die and// Response 2 F2 They die and then they relive (laughs) Response 3 F1 What relive? Signal 3 F3 Ah, that means . . . Signal 4 F2 Ah, they die// Response 4 F3 . . . they never die, you mean? Signal 4 cont. F2 Ya . . . (that is) (laughs) Response 5 F1 That means they never die you mean, even if Signal 5 they die, there is a pretended die . . . F2 Just like Christ. Response 6 F1 . . . pretended dead? Signal 5 cont. F2 Just like Christ. Response 7 F3 Just like Christ . . . Response 8 F1 I know, I know what you mean. OK, go on. Response 9 F3 Just like Jesus Christ, and so they think that, Response 8 cont. ah, they die and then they can, ah, live again, and so when they face a pro-, face some problems, they ah, they, they, will think of committing suicide. F2 Ahuh, I think we need to go to the part that Follow-up discuss ah why there, why has there been such an increase in recent years, right?(Martyn 2001: 34)82
  • Interaction, output and the negotiation of meaningMartyn points out that the conversation illustrates several interestingfeatures of a negotiation of meaning sequence. The trigger which opens the sequence is also a signal as F2 asks a question when she is uncertain how to express a meaning. Both F1 and F2 contribute signals which draw attention to the difficulty in communicating the meaning in English. All three interactants respond to one another’s attempts to express the meaning. . . . This extended negotiation of meaning sequence demonstrates mutual or co-construction of meaning as identified by Ellis (1984) and Chaudron (1988) or what was described as cooperative building of discourse (Bygate 1987, 1988; Williams 1999). By the end of the sequence, the three learners understand the meaning (thus over- coming the communication breakdown), but they have not managed to express it in the common English phrasing: ‘he died and rose again’. (Martyn 2001: 34–5) Investigators have found that this distinction between ‘simple’ and‘complex’ sequences is important from a research perspective. Forexample, Ellis, Basturkmen and Loewen (2001) found that while themajority of negotiation of meaning sequences in their data were of thesimple type, the complex types resulted in significantly greater uptake onthe part of subjects. In her research, Martyn (2001) also incorporated thedistinction between simple and complex exchanges, but found that sheneeded a more sensitive measure in order to operationalize the constructof ‘complex negotiation of meaning sequence’. She did this by develop-ing a technique for measuring the density of the sequences. Density of negotiation comes in the form of three ratios: the numberof signals per negotiation sequence, the number of responses per negoti-ation sequence, and the number of signals per response. A simplesequence would have one signal and one response, and therefore theratios 1/1, 1/1 and 1/1. A sequence with two signals and five responseswould have rations of 2/1, 5/1 and 2.5/1, reflecting the much greaterdensity of the sequence. Martyn argued that calculating density ratherthan simple counts of instances of negotiation would provide a moreaccurate measure of the level of communicative demand and cognitiveinvolvement generated by different task types. The claim by Long and others that the negotiation of meaning is animportant variable in language acquisition stimulated a substantial bodyof work investigating the functioning of the construct in the acquisitionprocess. Most of these studies sought to identify the characteristics of ped-agogical tasks that stimulated negotiation of meaning. In his own work,Long found that two-way tasks, in which all students in a group hadunique information to contribute, stimulated more meaning negotiation 83
  • An empirical basis for task-based language teachingthan one-way tasks, in which one student held all of the informationneeded to complete that task. Working in a similar tradition, Doughtyand Pica (1986) found that required information exchange tasks gener-ated significantly more negotiation than tasks in which the exchange ofinformation was optional. In an effort to synthesize the large number of studies in this area thathad emerged by the early 1990s, Pica, Kanagy and Falodun (1993)designed a framework incorporating what they saw as the two key fea-tures of a task: the interactional activity and the communication goal.Each of these features was broken down into two subsidiary dimensions.Interactional activity consisted of interactant relationship and interac-tant requirement, and communication goal was broken down intooutcome options and goal orientation: Interactant relationship: Do task participants hold mutual or mutually exclusive information?Interactionalactivity Interactant requirement: Is the exchange of information necessary or optional for task completion? Outcome options: Is a single outcome required, or are several outcomes possible?Communicationgoal Goal orientation: Are participants expected to converge on a particular goal or to diverge?Pica et al. proposed five basic task types, each of which was unique interms of the ways in which the features combined. These were the‘jigsaw’ task, the ‘information exchange’ task, the ‘problem-solving’task, the ‘decision-making’ task, and the ‘opinion exchange’ task. Theyalso argued that four conditions would maximize opportunities for thenegotiation of meaning: • each interactant holds a different portion of information • it is necessary for the information to be exchanged for the task to be successfully completed • interactants have convergent goals • only one acceptable outcome is possible. (Pica, Kanagy and Falodun 1993: 17)According to Pica et al.’s model, a jigsaw task, which meets all four con-ditions, should generate the most negotiation, and an opinion exchange,84
  • Task difficultywhich meets none, should generate the least. The other three tasks wouldform a continuum in between.Task difficultyThe issue of difficulty is of central importance to researchers, curriculumdevelopers, syllabus designers, materials writers and classroom teachers,and it is therefore not surprising that it has been the subject of consider-able research. Without some way of determining difficulty, sequencingand integrating tasks becomes a matter of intuition. Sequencing linguis-tic exercises is somewhat more straightforward than sequencing peda-gogical tasks because one can draw on notions of linguistic complexityand so on. I say ‘somewhat’ because work in areas such as speech pro-cessing show there are constraints other than linguistic ones that have animportant effect on what is learnable at any particular stage. Whileresearch into this important area is growing, researchers have only begunto scratch the surface, and there is as yet no objective method for deter-mining task complexity or difficulty. When syllabus designers began experimenting with alternatives togrammatical syllabuses the issue of difficulty became more problematic.In a functional syllabus, ‘apologizing’ may be less difficult than ‘specu-lating about the future’, but to what extent could ‘asking for directions’be seen as more or less difficult that ‘making plans to meet’? Sequencingand grading language functions has remained, and will probably alwaysremain, largely intuitive. Determining task difficulty becomes even more problematic thandetermining functional difficulty. All other things being equal, what is itthat makes one task more difficult than another? Brindley (1987) pointsout that this question is complicated by the fact that there are at leastthree intersecting sets of factors involved: learner factors, task factorsand text or input factors. These are illustrated below:Easier→More difficultLearneris confident about the task is not confidentis motivated to carry out the task is not motivatedhas necessary prior learning experiences has no prior experiencescan learn at pace required cannot learn at pace requiredhas necessary language skills does not have language skillshas relevant cultural knowledge does not have relevant cultural knowledge 85
  • An empirical basis for task-based language teachingEasier→More difficultTasklow cognitive complexity cognitively complexhas few steps has many stepsplenty of context provided no contextplenty of help available no help availabledoes not require grammatical accuracy grammatical accuracy requiredhas as much time as necessary has little timeText / Inputis short, not dense (few facts) is long and dense (many facts)clear presentation presentation not clearplenty of contextual clues few contextual cluesfamiliar, everyday content unfamiliar contentOne of the earliest series of empirical investigations into task difficulty wascarried out by Brown, Anderson, Shilcock and Yule (1984). These research-ers investigated the issue of what made speaking tasks difficult, and pro-posed a two-dimensional framework. The first dimension related to thetype of information that had to be conveyed. The second dimension con-cerned the scale of the task and the interrelationships among the differentelements involved. In relation to the first dimension, they found that ‘static’tasks such as describing a diagram, in which the elements remain constantrelative to each other, were easier than ‘dynamic’ tasks such as telling astory or describing a road accident, where the elements change relative toone another. Most difficult of all were ‘abstract’ tasks such as expressingan opinion, in which the elements are abstract rather than concrete. Reflect In your experience, which of the factors discussed in this section contribute most to task difficulty? Which factors are intentional and can be manipulated to make tasks more or less challenging, and which are beyond the teacher’s control (e.g. ‘learner background knowledge’)?Of all these factors, it is probably ‘cognitive complexity / demand’ thathas attracted most attention from researchers. Two researchers who havemost clearly articulated and researched the concept of cognitive com-plexity are Skehan (1998) and Robinson (2001a). Skehan, drawing onearlier work by Candlin (1987), set out to develop a scheme that wouldmake complexity criteria and actual tasks transparent. His model pro-poses a three-way distinction between code complexity (this relates to86
  • Task difficultythe language required), cognitive complexity (the thinking required), andcommunicative stress (the performance conditions demanded by thetask). These are elaborated as follows:Code complexity linguistic complexity and variety, vocabulary loadand variety, redundancy and density.Cognitive complexity Cognitive familiarity: familiarity of topic and its predictability, famil- iarity of discourse genre, familiarity of task. Cognitive processing: information organization, amount of ‘computa- tion’, clarity and sufficient information given, information type.Communicative stress time limits and time pressure, speed of presen-tation, number of participants, length of texts used, type of response,opportunities to control interaction.The distinction drawn by Skehan between cognitive familiarity and cog-nitive processing is an interesting one. Cognitive familiarity refers to theability of the learner to access ‘packaged’ solutions to tasks, whereas cog-nitive processing refers to the need to work out solutions ‘on line’. For example, one might compare the family tree task (comparing one another’s family tree in pairs) and a riddle task (both taken from Willis and Willis (1988). In the former case, the task requires existing well-organized ‘chunks’ of knowledge to be retrieved and mobilized for task performance. In the latter, elements of a task are easy to handle, but there is significant difficulty in manipulating them to achieve a solution that the task requires. It is assumed that in the former case attentional resources are not particularly stretched, and there is scope for a focus on form (VanPatten 1994). In the latter, where processing has to be directed at the cognitive problem involved, there is less attention left over to focus on form. (Skehan 1998: 100)The other aspect of Skehan’s work that is particularly interesting is hissystem for measuring task complexity in performance (see also Fosterand Skehan 1996, 1997). The model developed by Foster and Skehanincorporates three dimensions of task performance: accuracy, complex-ity and fluency. Accuracy is measured by dividing the number of correctclauses by the total number of clauses produced by each subject.Complexity is measured by dividing the total number of clauses by thetotal number of C-units produced by each subject. (A C-unit is an utter-ance containing a unit of referential or pragmatic meaning.) Fluency ismeasured by the total number of seconds of silence and time spent saying‘um’ and ‘ah’ by subjects as they complete a task. 87
  • An empirical basis for task-based language teaching Foster and Skehan found that different kinds of tasks made differenttypes of cognitive demand. In their study, they used three different kindsof tasks, which they labelled as ‘personal’, ‘narration’, and decision-making’. The personal information exchange task required one subject totell another how to get to their home to turn off a gas oven that they hadleft on. In the narrative task, subjects had to construct a story based on asequence of pictures. In the decision-making task, subjects had to roleplay a judge and decide on appropriate punishments for wrong-doers.‘The three tasks essentially opposed familiar with unfamiliar proposi-tions, and clear structure for the information required with progressivelyless predictable structure and interaction’ (Skehan 1998: 108). Foster andSkehan found that accuracy was significantly higher on the personal anddecision-making tasks than on the narrative. The personal task generatedless complex language than the narrative and the decision-making task.Finally, subjects displayed significantly less fluency on the narrative anddecision-making tasks compared with the personal task. Robinson (2001b) also found that cognitive complexity was anythingbut a unitary construct. In his model, he argues that cognitive factors areeither resource-directing or resource-depleting. Resource-directingfactors include the number of elements involved, the amount of contex-tual support available, and the reasoning demands made on the user.Resource-depleting factors, so called because they make demands onattention and working memory, include the amount of planning timeavailable, whether the task makes single or dual demands and the extentto which the learner has relevant prior knowledge. Any of the factors canbe manipulated to increase or decrease the complexity of a task in termsof its cognitive demand. Robinson links his cognitive demand framework to the negotiation ofmeaning by arguing that . . . . . . complex versions of tasks should result in more negotiation, and consequently more confirmation checks and clarification requests than simpler versions. . . . More interaction and turn- taking may mitigate speakers’ attempts to produce complex syntax and subordination, resulting in greater numbers of elliptical yes/no or single clause answers to clarification requests and confirmation checks relative to performance on less interactively negotiated simple versions of a task. (Robinson 2001b: 36)For her research, Martyn (2001) isolated from the literature four keyconditions of cognitive demand. There were: Contextual support: whether embedded, reduced or remote Reasoning demand: whether high or low Degree of task structure: whether high or low88
  • Task difficulty Availability of knowledge schema: provided or assumed through prior knowledge.She then mapped these onto the five-task framework adapted from Picaet al. as follows: Cognitive demand features Task type Contextual Reasoning Degree of Available support required task structure knowledge Jigsaw embedded not required high given Information embedded (for not required high given exchange one learner) Problem- some required varies given solving embedded Decision- context- required low given or making reduced available Opinion remote required low variable/not exchange required(Adapted from Martyn 2001)Drawing on density of negotiation, the construct she developed for meas-uring the level of communicative demand and cognitive involvementgenerated by different task types, she hypothesized that the five taskswould range on a continuum according to the density of negotiationsequences generated by each, that the jigsaw would produce the lowestdensity of negotiation of meaning, and the opinion exchange wouldproduce the highest, with the remaining tasks on a continuum inbetween. The jigsaw makes the least cognitive demand because thecontext is embedded in the task information and it must be shared, noreasoning is required, it is highly structured by the number and type ofitems to be exchanged, and the knowledge schema is provided by thetask. In the opinion exchange, on the other hand, the context is remoteas a result of the abstract nature of the task, reasoning is required in thepresentation of opinions, there is a low level of structure as there is norequired information exchange and agreement on a single outcome is notrequired, the goals are divergent, and the knowledge schema need not beprovided as the outcome is open. Martyn’s incorporation of cognitive demand into research on negoti-ation of meaning is significant. Previous researchers had argued that,based on frequency counts of instances of negotiation, jigsaw tasks 89
  • An empirical basis for task-based language teachingwould generate the most, and opinion exchange tasks the least negotia-tion. However, Martyn argued that when density of negotiation was thedependent variable the result would be reversed, that the opinionexchange task, having greater cognitive demand, would generate nego-tiation of meaning sequences with significantly higher density. Herresearch generally supported this hypothesis. She found that jigsaw andinformation exchange tasks generated a lower density of negotiation ofmeaning sequences than the problem-solving, decision-making andopinion-exchange tasks. This research outcome has important theoretical and practical impli-cations. Tasks with high cognitive demand and more complex commu-nication, as marked by high density negotiation of meaning sequences,generate the ‘pushed output’ that Swain (1995) argued was a factor insecond language acquisition. With learners at an appropriate level ofproficiency, they could therefore facilitate acquisition. On the otherhand, if the learners are not at an appropriate level of proficiency, thetasks could, as Skehan (1993) suggests, lead to an overload of their pro-cessing capacity which in turn could lead to fossilization rather thanacquisition.ConclusionIn recent years, there has been an explosion in the number of investiga-tions into various aspects of task-based learning and teaching. Far toomany studies have been conducted to be covered in detail in this chapter.For this reason, I have elected to provide a selective coverage of thosestudies that have been most influential in setting directions for bothresearch and practice. In the first part of the chapter, I reviewed some of the early psycholin-guistically motivated studies that provided a rationale for Krashen’shypotheses. While these hypotheses have proved controversial, and havebeen subjected to a great deal of criticism, they remain popular today,and continue to attract a great deal of interest. The ‘second wave’ of research set off by the work of Krashen andothers embraced ‘interaction’, ‘output’ and the ‘negotiation of meaning’as key constructs, and looked for relationships between these constructsand second language acquisition. This research posits an indirect rela-tionship between the negotiation of meaning and second language acqui-sition. In the final part of the chapter, I covered some of the research into taskdifficulty and complexity. This review led us into the area of cognition,and the construct of cognitive complexity. Here, I revisited the concept90
  • Referencesof negotiation of meaning and suggested that density of negotiation is animportant element in our search for relationships between task types,cognitive complexity and second language acquisition.ReferencesBailey, K. 1999. What have we learned from 25 years of classroom research? Plenary presentation, International TESOL Convention, New York, March 1999.Brindley, G. 1987. Factors affecting task difficulty. In D. Nunan (ed.) Guidelines for the Development of Curriculum Resources. Adelaide: National Curriculum Resource Centre.Brown, G., A. Anderson, R. Shilcock and G. Yule. 1984. Teaching Talk: Strate- gies for production and assessment. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Bygate, M. 1987. Speaking. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Bygate, M. 1988. Units of oral expression and language learning in small group interaction. Applied Linguistics, 9, 69–82.Candlin, C. 1987. Toward task-based learning. In C. Candlin and D. Murphy (eds) Language Learning Tasks. Englewood Cliffs NJ: Prentice Hall.Chaudron, C. 1988. Second Language Classrooms: Research on teaching and learning. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Doughty, C. and T. Pica. 1986. ‘Information gap’ tasks: Do they facilitate second language acquisition? TESOL Quarterly, 20, 2.Dulay, H. and M. Burt. 1973. Should we teach children syntax? Language Learning, 23.Dulay, H. and M. Burt. 1974. Natural sequences in child second language acqui- sition. Language Learning, 24.Ellis, R. 1984. Classroom Second Language Development: a study of classroom interaction and language acquisition. Oxford: Pergamon Press.Ellis, R., H. Basturmen and S. Loewen. 2001. Learner uptake in communicative ESL lessons. Language Learning, 51, 281–318.Foster, P. and P. Skehan. 1996. The influence of planning on performance in task- based learning. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 18, 299–324.Foster, P. and P. Skehan. 1997. Modifying the task: the effects of surprise, time and planning type on task-based foreign language instruction. Thames Valley University Working Papers in English Language Teaching. Volume 4.Hatch, E. 1978. Discourse analysis and second language acquisition. In E. Hatch (ed.) Second Language Acquisition: a book of readings. Rowley Mass.: Newbury House.Krashen, S. 1981. Second Language Acquisition and Second Language Learn- ing. Oxford: Pergamon Press.Krashen, S. 1982. Principles and Practice in Second Language Acquisition. Oxford: Pergamon Press. 91
  • An empirical basis for task-based language teachingLong, M. 1985. Input and second language acquisition theory. In S. Gass and C. Madden (eds) Input in Second Language Acquisition. Rowley Mass.: Newbury House.Martyn, E. 2001. The effect of task type on negotiation of meaning in small group work. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Hong Kong.Nunan, D. 2005. Classroom-based research. In E. Hinkel (ed.) Handbook of Research in Second Language Teaching and Learning. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.Pica, T., L. Holliday, N. Lewis, D. Berducci and J. Newman. 1991. Second lan- guage learning through interaction: What role does gender play? Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 11, 152–187.Pica, T., R. Kanagy and J. Falodun. 1993. Choosing and using communication tasks for second language instruction and research. In G. Crookes and S. Gass (eds) Tasks and Language Learning: Integrating theory and practice. Clevedon, Avon: Multilingual Matters.Robinson, P. 2001a. Cognition and Second Language Instruction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Robinson, P. 2001b. Task complexity, task difficulty, and task production: Exploring interactions in a componential framework. Applied Linguistics, 22, 27–57.Shehadeh, A. 1999. Non-native speakers’ production of modified comprehen- sible output and second language learning. Language Learning, 49, 627–75.Skehan, P. 1993. Second language acquisition and task-based learning. In M. Bygate and E. Williams (eds) Grammar in the L2 Classroom. New York: Prentice-Hall.Skehan, P. 1998. A Cognitive Approach to Language Learning. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Swain, M. 1985. Communicative competence: Some roles for comprehensible input and comprehensible output in its development. In S. Gass and C. Madden (eds) Input in Second Language Acquisition. Rowley Mass.: Newbury House.Swain, M. 1995. Three functions of output in second language learning. In G. Cook and B. Seidlhofer (eds) Principles and Practice in Applied Linguistics: Studies in honour of H. G. Widdowson. Oxford: Oxford University Press.VanPatten, B. 1994. Evaluating the role of consciousness in SLA: Terms, linguis- tic features, and research methodology. AILA Review, 11, 27–36.Williams, J. 1999. Learner-generated attention to form. Language Learning, 49, 583–625.Willis, D. and J. Willis. 1988. COBUILD Book 1. London: Collins.92
  • 5 Focus on form in task-based language teachingIntroduction and overviewThe purpose of this chapter is to take a more detailed look at the place ofgrammar instruction within task-based language teaching. As we havealready seen, the issue of whether or not a focus on form has a place intask-based language teaching is controversial. In the first section of thechapter, I will review several theoretical and empirical aspects of form-focused instruction that are of significance to TBLT. I will then expandon two of these: form-focused versus unfocused tasks, and consciousness-raising tasks. The sections that follow then focuses on an issue of centralimportance to syllabus designers and materials writers, which is whereform-focused work should come in any task-based instructional cycle.Theoretical and empirical issuesAs we saw in Chapter 4, the place of a focus on form in TBLT is controver-sial. Some theorists adopt a ‘strong’ interpretation, arguing that communi-cative interaction in the language is necessary and sufficient for languageacquisition, and that a focus on form is unnecessary. Krashen (1981, 1982),whose work was examined in detail in the preceding chapter, is one of themain proponents of this ‘strong’ approach. He argues that there are two pro-cesses operating in language development, subconscious acquisition andconscious learning, and that form-focused instruction is aimed at consciouslearning which does not feed in to subconscious acquisition. Another major issue for TBLT concerns the relationship between thetask and the language that supports it or through which it is realized.Here the question is whether a particular grammatical structure isrequired in order for a task to be completed successfully, or whether it ispossible to complete a task successfully using whatever linguistic tasksare at one’s disposal. Proponents of a ‘strong’ interpretation of TBLTbelieve very firmly in the latter view, that learners should be able to usewhatever linguistic means they can muster, and that an approach whichimposes linguistic constraints can not be called ‘task-based’. As this issuch an important issue I will look at it in detail in the next section. 93
  • Focus on form in task-based language teaching A relatively new approach to the study of language acquisition ininstructional contexts is ‘sociocultural theory’ (Lantolf 2000). Thisapproach has challenged the prevailing psycholinguistic tradition, whichhas dominated research into the place of a focus on form in the languageclassroom. It is based on the theories of the Russian psychologistVygotsky, who viewed language as a social as well as a cognitive toolthrough which humans are able to act upon and change the world inwhich they live. Researchers using this approach study the interactionsbetween two or more language learners as they complete a task to seehow their collaborative interactions provide opportunities for secondlanguage learning. This typically occurs when one of the participants hasa piece of linguistic knowledge that the other doesn’t, or when the learn-ers collaboratively co-construct a piece of knowledge inductively. Theultimate aim of researchers working in this area is to demonstrate howcollaborative conversations provide opportunities for second languagelearning.Focused versus unfocused tasksA key issue for TBLT is whether the tasks themselves should be focusedor unfocused. A focused task is one in which a particular structure isrequired in order for a task to be completed. An unfocused task is one inwhich the learners are able to use any linguistic resources at their dispo-sal in order to complete the task. Consider the following discussion task that occurs in a unit of workon the topic of ‘Inventions’: ➳94
  • Focused versus unfocused tasks What are the five most helpful inventions and the five most annoy- ing inventions? Make a list. Then explain your opinion. Helpful inventions Annoying inventions Example: telephone Example: alarm clock 1. 1. 2. 2. 3. 3. 4. 4. 5. 5.(Nunan 2000: 63)It might reasonably be predicted that learners would need to use super-latives (‘most helpful’, ‘most annoying’), as well as clauses of reason‘because’, coming up with statements such as, ‘I think the most helpfulinvention is the light bulb, because they give people more time to workand play every day.’ However, there are numerous other ways in whichthe task might be completed without the use of these particular forms,such as: ‘I hate alarm clocks. They drive me nuts. I go to bed late and Ilike to sleep in.’ In fact, the number of tasks in which it is possible topredict, with a high degree of certainty, the exact grammatical structuresthe learners will use is probably relatively small. In discussing the issue of whether a task can or should predetermine aparticular grammatical form, Loschky and Bley-Vroman (1993) make anumber of useful comments. They point out that, while a particular formmay not be essential for the successful completion of a task, certain forms(such as the ones in the task above) could be expected to arise quite nat-urally in the course of the task. They also point out, that while linguistic 95
  • Focus on form in task-based language teachingforms targeted by the curriculum, the textbook or the teacher might notbe essential, the use of such forms will greatly facilitate the completionof the task. They cite spot-the-difference tasks such as the following.(Nunan 2003: 65 and 96)96
  • Focused versus unfocused tasks This task is designed to elicit the use of prepositions (among otherforms). Loschky and Bley-Vroman (1993) point out that, while the taskcan be completed without the use of prepositions, using prepositions willmake the task easier to complete, and could well facilitate a more suc-cessful outcome than if prepositions were not used by the learners takingpart in the task. Willis and Willis (2001: 173–4) reject the notion of ‘focused’ (or, asthey call them, ‘metacommunicative’) tasks: The use of the word ‘task’ is sometimes extended to include ‘metacommunicative tasks’, or exercises with a focus on linguistic form, in which learners manipulate language or formulate generalizations about form. But a definition of task which includes an explicit focus on form seems to be so all-embracing as to cover almost anything that might happen in a classroom. We therefore restrict our use of the term ‘task’ to communicative tasks and exclude metacommunicative tasks from our definition. One feature of TBL (task-based learning), therefore, is that learners carrying out a task are free to use any language they can to achieve the outcomes: language forms are not prescribed in advance.However, this does not mean that an instructional sequence should notinclude a form-focused exercise – merely that it should not be called a‘task’. Reflect Study the following procedure. Is it focused or unfocused? If it is focused, what is the focus and how is this focus achieved? Would you say that it is a pedagogical task, a communicative activity or a language exercise? 11.3 Detectives Procedure: An object to be ‘stolen’ is decided on – say a coin or a ring. One student (the ‘detective’) is sent out of the room. One of the remaining students is given the object; he or she is the ‘thief’. The detective returns and tries to find out who the thief is by asking participants: Do you have it / the ring? Each participant – including the actual thief – denies guilt, and accuses someone else: No, I don’t have it. A has it! ➳ 97
  • Focus on form in task-based language teaching Whereupon, the detective turns to A with the same question – and so on, until everyone has been asked and has denied responsibility. The detective then has to decide in three guesses who is lying – who ‘looks guilty’. The process is then repeated with another detective and another thief. Variations: The activity may be made more lively by encouraging students to act innocence or indignation as convincingly as they can: they may change the emphasis or intonation of the set sen- tences as they wish, add gestures and so on. Another technique, which abandons verisimilitude but helps fluency, is to get the class to complete the round of ‘interrogations’ as quickly as possible (‘Let’s see if we can get round the whole class in two minutes’ . . . ‘Let’s see if we can do it again in even less time’).(Ur, P. 1988: 123–4)Consciousness-raising tasksEllis (2001) argues for a particular variant of focused tasks that he callsconsciousness-raising (CR) tasks. Consciousness-raising tasks aredesigned to draw learners’ attention to a particular linguistic featurethrough a range of inductive and deductive procedures. The assumptionhere is not that a feature once raised to consciousness will be immedi-ately incorporated into the learner’s interlanguage, but that it is a firststep in that direction. Ellis states that consciousness-raising tasks differ from other focusedtasks in two essential ways: First, whereas structure-based production tasks, enriched input tasks and interpretation tasks are intended to cater primarily to implicit learning, CR-tasks are designed to cater primarily to explicit learning – that is, they are intended to develop awareness at the level of ‘understanding’ rather than awareness at the level of ‘noticing’ (see Schmidt 1994). Thus, the desired outcome of a CR- task is awareness of how some linguistic feature works. Second, whereas the previous types of task were built around content of a general nature (e.g. stories, pictures of objects, opinions about the kind of person you like), CR-tasks make language itself the content. In this respect, it can be asked whether CR-tasks are indeed tasks. They are in the sense that learners are required to talk meaningfully about a language point using their own linguistic resources. That is, although there is some linguistic feature that is the focus of the task learners are not required to use this feature, only think about it and discuss it. The ‘taskness’ of a CR-task lies98
  • Consciousness-raising tasks not in the linguistic point that is the focus of the task but rather in the talk learners must engage in in order to achieve an outcome to the task. (Ellis 2001: 162–3)In designing CR tasks, the first step is to isolate a specific feature forattention. The learners are provided with input data illustrating thefeature, and may also be given a rule to explain the feature. They are thenrequired either to understand it, or (if they have not been given the rule)to describe the grammatical structure in question. The following example of a CR task is provided by Fotos and Ellis (1991). A. What is the difference between verbs like ‘give’ and ‘explain’? She gave a book to her father (= grammatical) She gave her father a book (= grammatical) The policeman explained the law to Mary (= grammatical) The policeman explained Mary the law ( = ungrammatical). B. Indicate whether the following sentences are grammatical or ungrammatical. 1. They saved Mark a seat. 2. His father read Kim a story. 3. She donated the hospital some money. 4. They suggested Mary a trip on the river. 5. They reported the police the accident. 6. They threw Mary a party. 7. The bank lent Mr Thatcher some money. 8. He indicated Mary the right turning. 9. The festival generated the college a lot of money. 10. He cooked his girlfriend a cake. C. Work out a rule for verbs like ‘give’ and ‘explain’. 1. List the verbs in B that are like ‘give’ (i.e. permit both sen- tence patterns) and those that are like ‘explain’ (i.e. allow only one sentence pattern). 2. What is the difference between the verbs in your two lists?33 This example from Ellis is interesting because it does not appear in any standard grammar reference books. Despite this, advanced learners of English are able to identify several ‘rules’ or principles (Ellis, personal communication). One of these is that the verbs permitting both patterns are from Old English, whereas the others are from Greek or Latin. The number of syllables is also a factor. 99
  • Focus on form in task-based language teachingProcedural languageIn addition to the language forms inherent in a given task, there is alsothe procedural language that is generated by two or more individuals inthe course of completing a task. This procedural language, which is akind of ‘byproduct’ of the task, will include conversational managementlanguage such as: bidding for a turn agreeing and disagreeing negotiating meaning hesitating and hedging. Reflect Consider the following decision-making task. Is this a focused or unfocused task? What procedural and content language do you think might be needed in order to complete the task? What grammatical knowledge might be needed? If possible, get a group of upper-inter- mediate or advanced learners to complete the task. Record and analyze their language. Were your predictions confirmed? Sahara Survival It is approximately 10.00 am in mid-July and you have just crashed in the Sahara Desert. The light twin-engine plane, containing the bodies of the pilot and co-pilot, has completely burnt out. Only the frame remains. None of the rest of you has been injured. The pilot was unable to notify anyone of your position before the crash. However, ground sightings, taken before you crashed, indicated that you were 65 miles off the course that was filed in your flight plan. The pilot indicated before you crashed that you were approximately 70 miles south-south-west from a small oasis, which is the nearest known habitation. The immediate area is quite flat and, except for occasional cacti, seems to be rather barren. The last weather report indicated that the temperature will reach 110 degrees F, which means that the temper- ature within a foot of the surface will reach 130 degrees F. You are dressed in lightweight clothes – short-sleeved shirts, shorts or skirts, socks and shoes or sandals. Everyone has a handkerchief. Before the plane caught fire, your group was able to salvage the 15 items listed below. Your task is to rank the items according to the importance for your survival starting with 1 (the most important) and finishing with 15 (the least important).100
  • The place of a focus on form in an instructional sequence The items • Flashlight • Pen knife • Map of the area • Plastic raincoat • Magnetic compass • First-aid kit • Pistol (loaded) • Parachute • Bottle of salt tablets • 1 quart of water per person • A pair of sunglasses per person • 5 bottles of vodka • 1 coat per person • A cosmetic mirror • A book entitled Edible Animals of the Desert(Adapted from an EDEXEL A-level Psychology simulation)The place of a focus on form in an instructional sequenceFor those who accept the value in having a focus on form at some pointin the instructional cycle, there is an ongoing question as to where sucha focus should come in the cycle. In early versions of task-based languageteaching, the tendency was to introduce the focus on form first, at whatwas called the ‘pre-communicative stage’ of a lesson or unit of work.This was intended to provide a basis for later communicative work, theargument being that it was unrealistic to expect learners to be able to uselanguage that they had not been explicitly taught. In practice, thisapproach was very little different from the 3Ps (presentation, practice,production) instructional cycle that it was designed to replace. In Chapter 2, I presented a six-step pedagogical sequence which showswhere I believe that a focus on form should come, that is, at step 4 in thesequence. There are several reasons for placing it here, rather than at thebeginning of the sequence. Firstly, the sequence begins with a focus onthe communicative ends rather than the linguistic means. In the stepsprior to this, learners get to see, hear and use the target language from acommunicative or pseudo-communicative perspective. They get to seeand hear the language being used communicatively by native speakers orcompetent second language speakers. Hopefully, this will make it easierfor the learners to establish links between the linguistic forms and thecommunicative functions they realise. 101
  • Focus on form in task-based language teaching Reflect Consider the following task and exercise types from the Interchange series. Which types provide an opportunity for a focus on form? How would you sequence these types into an instruc- tional sequence? What is the rationale for your sequencing? Task/exercise type Description Snapshot The snapshots graphically present interesting real- world information that introduces the topic of a unit or cycle, and also develop vocabulary. Follow- up questions encourage discussion of the snapshot material and personalize the topic. Conversation The conversations introduce the new grammar of each cycle in a communicative context and present functional and conversational expressions. Grammar focus The new grammar of each unit is presented in color boxes and is followed by controlled and freer communicative practice activities. These freer activities often have students use the grammar in a personal context. Fluency exercise These pair, group, whole class, or role-play activ- ities provide more personal practice of the new teaching points and increase the opportunity for individual student practice. Pronunciation These exercises focus on important features of spoken English, including stress, rhythm, intona- tion, reductions and blending. Listening The listening activities develop a wide variety of listening skills, including listening for gist, listening for details, and inferring meaning from context. Charts or graphics often accompany these task- based exercises to lend support to students. Word power The word power activities develop students’ vocabulary through a variety of interesting tasks, such as word maps and collocation exercises. Word power activities are usually followed by oral and written practice that helps students under- stand how to use the vocabulary in context. ➳102
  • Focus on form in the communicative classroom Writing The writing exercises include practical writing tasks that extend and reinforce the teaching points in the unit and help develop students’ composi- tional skills. The Teacher’s Edition demonstrates how to use the models and exercises to focus on the process of writing. Reading The reading passages use various types of texts adapted from authentic sources. The readings develop a variety of reading skills, including reading for details, skimming, scanning and making inferences. Also included are pre-reading and post-reading questions that use the topic of the reading as a spring board to discussion. Interchange The interchange activities are pair work, group activities work, or whole class activities involving informa- tion sharing and role playing to encourage real communication. These exercises are a central part of the course and allow students to extend and personalize what they have practised and learned in each unit.(Adapted from Richards, Hull and Proctor 1997: iv – v)A unit based on this task/exercise typology is reproduced as Appendix C. Reflect Compare the two units of work presented as Appendices B and C. What similarities and differences do you notice between the two units? (Look, for example, at the sequencing of tasks and exercises. Do listening and speaking tasks come before reading and writing? When is a focus on grammar introduced? How is it introduced? What are learners expected to do?)Focus on form in the communicative classroomIn this section, I would like to demonstrate some of the ways in which afocus on form can be integrated into task work in the classroom. In thelesson extract that follows, the students are completing an informationgap task. The pedagogical objectives are asking about and making sug-gestions using Wh-questions with ‘do’ and ‘like’ ‘like +Ving’. The taskillustrates principle 2 – use tasks that show the relationship betweenform and function. Unlike the other teaching sequences in this section, 103
  • Focus on form in task-based language teachingthe grammar is presented within a context that makes clear to the learn-ers one communicative use for the structure. It also illustrates the waythat both declarative knowledge and procedural knowledge can beworked in to a pedagogical sequence.104
  • Focus on form in the communicative classroom(Nunan 2001: 107–8) 105
  • Focus on form in task-based language teachingT: Right, now are you ready to do the info gap task? Yes? We’ve done lots of these, now, haven’t we?Ss: (nod)T: The purpose of this task is to give you more practice in the language we’re learning in this unit. What ARE we practising? Remember? Johnny?S: Talk about what people like.T: Talking about what people like – good. And?S: Talking about gift giving.T: Talking about gift giving. Right. These are our communication goals. And what structures do we use to do these things? . . . Anyone? . . . Yes, Mary?S: What do you like? And What do you like doing?T: Great! And we use like to talk about things, right? And like doing to talk about activities. What about making gift-giving sugges- tions?S: Let’s.T: OK, good, Let’s get him a CD, or Let’s get Tom a golf club. OK, now WHEN do we give people gifts? WHEN? Yes, Monica?S: Birthday.T: Birthdays are good. (Writes birthdays on the board.) Johnny?S: New . . . new baby.T: That’s a good suggestion. (Writes new baby on the board and con- tinues eliciting until there are a number of events on the board.) OK, now get into your pairs and I want Student A to look at page 107, and Student B to look at page 108. . . . (Peers over students’ shoulder) Johnny, you’re the B student, aren’t you? You’re looking at the wrong page. 108, please. Good. Now, Bill likes the things the A students can see in the picture, but he already has these things. OK? Understand, Monica? Right. So, tell your partner what Bill likes, and your partner will suggest gifts. Write the suggestion in the space, and then decide on the best idea. OK, Student A – start off by suggesting a reason for buying a gift – look at the board – it’s his birthday, he’s going away and so on. Right, off you go.(The students complete the task. As they do so, the teacher circulates andmonitors. When she hears a mistake, she writes it in a notebook, butdoesn’t interrupt the students.) OK, I think everybody’s finished now. Are you two finished? Right, good. So, now I want you to do the same thing for Connie. B, tell A what Connie likes. A will make suggestions. Write them down then decide, decide on the best one, OK?106
  • Focus on form in the communicative classroom (Again, the teacher circulates and monitors. At one point she isstopped by one pair, listens to their question and says ‘It’s called a sub-scription – a subscription’.) OK, time’s up. Let’s hear what each pair decided. (Teacher elicits responses from the students and writes them on the board.) Well, that’s great – look at all these interesting gifts. Which of these gifts would YOU like to receive, Johnny? . . . Sorry?S: The California Fitness Subscription.T: Yeah, I like that one too. How about you, Sophie? (She continues, eliciting students’ preferences, and writing their names next to the gift.) OK, Now, you all did very well, but I noticed a few mistakes creeping in here and there. Look. (She writes the mistakes from her notebook on the board, and gets students to self-correct.)I like this piece of classroom interaction for a number of reasons. In thefirst place, it demonstrates an effective teacher in action. At the begin-ning of the sequence, the teacher sets out the pedagogical agenda for thestudents. While the overall focus of the sequence is on the communica-tive task, she skilfully links the communicative goal of the lesson withthe grammatical exponents that will help the students as they completethe task. In addition, she demonstrates excellent elicitation skills,drawing information from the students rather than simply telling them.As the students complete the task, she actively monitors them, providingmodels when necessary, and helps one pair out when they encounter adifficulty. In the post-task debriefing, she personalizes the task, and pro-vides form-focused feedback on errors she noted as the students com-pleted the task. Samuda (2001) suggests that in setting up a task the teacher canprovide either an implicit or an explicit focus on target language struc-tures. She exemplifies these two teaching strategies in relation to a taskdesigned to elicit the expressions of probability and possibility. Studentsworking in small groups were provided with a set of objects that weresupposedly the contents of a person’s pocket. They had to speculate onthe identity of the person, come to a conclusion and justify that conclu-sion. In doing the task, each group had to fill in the following chart,registering the degree of probability / possibility in relation to each con-clusion. 107
  • Focus on form in task-based language teaching How certain are you? Less than 50% 90% certain 100% certain. certain (It’s possible) (It’s probable) (It’s certain) Name Sex Age Marital status Occupation Habits Reflect What role is the teacher playing in each of the following extracts?Extract 1S1: Habits?Y: Well, first he smokes.C: But we think uh 50% we think just 50%.N: Yes, just maybe. We’re not sure.T: Oh yeah? Only 50%? Why’s that?S2: Yes, give proof.N: Because here (showing matchbox). A matchbox.T: Hmm, but you’re not certain if he smokes, huh? (looking at match box).A: Look (opens matchbox). Many matches, so maybe he just keep for friend, not for him (laughter).T: Hmm, I guess it’s possible he might smoke. It’s hard to tell just from this.A: Yeah, not sure.S2: You have more proof?(Samuda 2001: 129)Here, the teacher is playing the role of group participant. In the courseof the interaction, she also provides models of the target language.However, she does not draw attention to the language; rather it remainsimplicit.108
  • Focus on form in the communicative classroomExtract 2T: So, lots of interesting ideas here. Paula, letters, schedule, opera, a busy man.C: Japanese classes.T: Yeah, right, I forgot he’s learning Japanese too (laughter).N: And golf.T: Oh, yes, very busy (laughter). Hmmm, let’s – why don’t we look at how the language works here? Just for a minute uhh (looking at objects). Let’s see now. Did you have anything here that you thought was probable? Like 90%?Y: Businessman.T: Businessman? 90%. OK, so you’re 90% certain he’s a businessman, right? Here’s another way to say this. You think it’s 90% certain, so you think he must be a businessman. He must be a businessman (writes it on board). So this (points to must be on board) is showing how CERTAIN how SURE you are. Not 100%, but almost 100%. 90%.A: So 100% is ‘be’ or ‘must’?T: 100? 100%? Then you can say he IS a businessman (writes on board) When you when you’re NOT 100% certain you can use must OK? No he is a businessman but he must be a businessman. So ‘be’ here (pointing to ‘must be’ on board) is from this verb (pointing to is). Let’s uh what other things do you have for probably?C: Travel a lot.T: OK, so if it’s 90% you can say he must travel a lot (writes on board). So we use uh we use must with the verb (pointing).(Samuda 2001: 131)In this second extract, the teacher adopts a much more overtly instruc-tional role, focusing students explicitly on the form–meaning relation-ships in question. It may well be that it is this explicit focus which leadsA to seek clarification (‘So 100% is “be” or “must”?’) two-thirds of theway through the extract. Samuda’s study highlights the complementary relationship betweenthe task and the teacher: . . . an important role for the task may be to attract initial atten- tion to designated areas of meaning, and through task operations create a need to mean; an important role for the teacher may be to complement the task by guiding attention towards form-meaning relationships. In particular, it has suggested that task input data may play a significant, although hitherto overlooked, role as a resource to be ‘mined’ by learners and teachers in different ways and for different purposes during task performance. (Samuda 2001: 137) 109
  • Focus on form in task-based language teaching Reflect Explore the place of grammar in a language lesson by trying out the following observation task from Wajnryb 1992: 85–7.Before the lessonArrange to observe a lesson in which grammar will have some place. Ifpossible, speak to the teacher in advance of the lesson, and discuss thelesson’s aims in terms of its grammatical focus.During the lessonKeep an ethnographic record of the lesson. This means that you notedown chronologically the main events in the lesson and their impact.This will have to be brief and synoptic enough for you to keep records‘in real time’. It does not have to include scripted actual language butrather a report of what was said and done. For example: T enters . . . greets whole class from the front of room. T announceswhat the lesson is going to be about today. T reminds SS how this lessonfollows on from yesterday’s. . . . T drills new pattern . . . S asks questionabout the form of the verb in pattern on board . . . T explains. S seemsto be satisfied but another S continues to ask similar questions.After the lessonFor the purposes of the following questions, you should bear in mindyour memory of the lesson and the specific contexts in which the eventsoccurred as well as your written narrative record of the lesson. 1. To what extent was an aspect of grammar the central focus of the lesson you observed? 2. Were the students consciously involved in thinking about grammar? Was a rule or rules presented to them or were they expected to work the rules out for themselves? Were they helped or taught how to do this? 3. Describe the lesson in terms of ‘knowing’ or ‘doing’: Were the stu- dents finding out how the language works or were they doing some- thing with the language? Or both? And to what degrees? 4. If the students were at any time involved in doing something with the language, to what extent did the tasks or activities require them to make connections or inferences about the system of language? 5. Was there any evidence of a range of learning styles among the students in terms of how they reacted to a lesson involving110
  • Conclusion grammar? Did these learning styles contrast with the teaching style in any way? 6. Have you any comments on the language used by the teacher to talk about language and how this facilitated access to understanding the language? 7. Consider now any discussion about language that took place in the classroom, either among students, or involving the teacher. From the discussion, was there any evidence of learners trying to align new information with old – that is, processing recent input with their existing hypotheses about language? 8. Is it possible to summarise: • what the students might have thought the lesson’s objective was? • what they came away with from the lesson? Now contrast the lesson’s objectives and its process. Do you consider that it is important that students know what the lesson is going to be about and what objectives are set? Is it impor- tant that they come away from the lesson with what the teacher plans for them to come away with? 9. Considering the lesson you observed and the discussions you have had, what inferences can you draw from the lesson about (a) what language is, and (b) what language learning is to the teacher con- cerned? In other words, what theories (perhaps subconscious) underline the teacher’s methodology? You may wish to pursue this in a discussion with the teacher.10. In the debate about the place of grammar in teaching, one attempt to classify teaching according to the role of grammar is that pro- posed by Gibbons (1989) in his description of focused versus unfo- cused instructional cycles. Focused instructional cycles have a particular language item focus, such as a point of grammar, whereas unfocused instructional cycles are more likely to be skills or activity based. You may wish to map this lesson that you have observed onto Gibbons’s schemata in order to deepen your understanding of how grammar features.ConclusionIn this chapter, I have explored the place of a focus on form in TBLT. Asindeed, in the rest of the book, I have embraced a ‘weak’ interpretationof TBLT, arguing that while focus on form activities do not constitutetasks in their own right, they do have a place in any task-based instruc-tional cycle. I renewed some of the theoretical and empirical work intro-duced in Chapter 4 before looking in detail at the issue of focused/ 111
  • Focus on form in task-based language teachingunfocused tasks and consciousness-raising tasks. I then looked at someexamples of focus on form being used in the instructional cycle.ReferencesDoughty, C. and J. Williams (eds) 1998. Focus on Form in Classroom Second Language Acquisition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Ellis, R. 2001. Task-based Language Teaching and Learning. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Ellis, R. 2003. Task-based Language Learning and Teaching. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Gibbons, J. 1989. Instructional cycles. English Teaching Forum, 27, 3, 6–11.Krashen, S. 1981. Second Language Acquisition and Second Language Learn- ing. Oxford: Pergamon Press.Krashen, S. 1982. Principles and Practice in Second Language Acquisition. Oxford: Pergamon.Lantolf, J. (ed.) 2000. Sociocultural Theory and Second Language Learning. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Loschky, L. and R. Bley-Vroman. 1993. Grammar and task-based methodology. In G. Crookes and S. Gass (eds) Tasks and Language Learning. Clevedon, Avon: Multilingual Matters.Nunan, D. 2000. Go For It: Student book 4. Singapore: Thomson Learning / People’s Education Press.Nunan, D. 2001. Expressions: Student book 1. Boston MA: Heinle / Thomson Learning.Nunan, D. 2003. Go For It: Student book 1. (China edition.) Boston MA: Heinle / Thomson Learning.Richards, J., J. Hull and S. Proctor. 1997. New Interchange: English for International Communication. Student’s book 1. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Samuda, V. 2001. Guiding relationships between form and meaning during task performance: the role of the teacher. In M. Bygate, P. Skehan and M. Swain (eds) Researching Pedagogic Tasks: Second language learning, teaching and testing. London: Longman.Ur, P. 1988. Grammar Practice Activities. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Wajnryb, R. 1992. Classroom Observation Tasks. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Willis, D. and J. Willis. 2001. Task-based language learning. In R. Carter and D. Nunan (eds) The Cambridge Guide to Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.112
  • 6 Grading, sequencing and integrating tasksIntroduction and overviewIn this book, I have made the claim that ‘task’ is more than a methodo-logical device for classroom action, that it is a central curriculum plan-ning tool. In Chapter 1, I argued that curriculum planning embraced thewhat, the why, the when and the how well of any language program.Tasks must therefore feature in decisions relating to each of these dimen-sions of the curriculum. I have already devoted a considerable portion of this book to issues oftask selection. In this chapter, I want to explore principles for grading,sequencing and integrating tasks. If you examine a number of coursebooks, you will find that the contentis graded in a variety of ways. The grammatical list in one popularcoursebook, for example, introduces ‘subject pronouns’ and ‘the verb“be”’ in Unit 1, and relegates ‘regular past simple’, ‘possessive pro-nouns’, and ‘adjectives’ to Unit 9. In another, the functions ‘opinions’and ‘arguments’ are introduced in Unit 3 while ‘explanations’ and‘instructions’ are not introduced until Unit 8. Decisions on what to teachfirst, what second, and what last in a coursebook or program will reflectthe beliefs of the coursebook writer or syllabus designer about grading,sequencing and integrating content. In commercial materials, it will alsoreflect the demands of the market. Grading has been described in the following way: the arrangement of the content of a language course or textbook so that it is presented in a helpful way. Gradation would affect the order in which words, word meanings, tenses, structures, topics, functions, skills, etc. are presented. Gradation may be based on the complexity of an item, its frequency in written or spoken English, or its importance for the learner. (Richards, Platt and Weber 1986: 125)In other words, the content introduced in Week 1 of a course is selectedeither because it is considered to be easy, or because it occurs frequently,or because the learner needs it immediately for real-world communica-tion. 113
  • Grading, sequencing and integrating tasks The grading, sequencing and integrating of content for a language pro-gram is an extremely complicated and difficult business, even for sylla-bus designers who have been doing it for years. It could well be thesubject of an entire book, and in this chapter. I will only be able to touchon some of the key issues and factors involved in the process. The issue is complicated by the fact that language development is an‘organic’ process (Nunan 1999). Language items are not isolated enti-ties to be mastered one at a time in a step-by-step fashion. Rather theyare integrated, and their acquisition is inherently unstable (Ellis 1994).Learners do not learn one aspect of the language perfectly one at atime. Rather, they acquire partial mastery of numerous items simulta-neously. For curriculum developers and materials writers, this meansthat extensive recycling is required. In addition, research has shownthat there is a difference between difficulty as defined in terms of lin-guistic description and difficulty as defined in terms of learners’ abilityto acquire a particular linguistic item. Pienemann and Johnston (1987),for example, have demonstrated that, while third person ‘s’ is simple interms of grammatical description, it is complex in terms of languageprocessing. If deciding which grammatical items are easy or difficult presentsproblems, then things become much more complicated once we look atthe grading and sequencing of tasks. This is because, in addition to lin-guistic factors, there are so many other factors to be taken into consid-eration. I begin this chapter by considering factors in relation to the key com-ponents of input, procedures and the learner. Goals are not dealt withseparately because they are closely implicated with procedures, and are,in any case, difficult to deal with without a detailed description of theprogram they come from.Grading inputIn this section, we look at those factors inherent in reading and listeninginput that are likely to cause difficulty. The first thing to consider is the complexity of the input. Here, gram-matical factors will be important. All things being equal, a text made upof simple sentences is likely to be simpler than one consisting of non-finite verb constructions and subordination. Reflect What factors make Sentence A below less complex than B?114
  • Grading inputSentence AThe boy went home.Sentence BHaving insufficient money, the boy, who wanted to go to the cinema,went home instead.However, we need to be cautious when making assumptions about diffi-culty based on the grammatical features contained in a text. Rewritingtexts to make them grammatically simpler can actually make them moredifficult to process. Consider the following passages:Passage AThe students fooled around because the teacher left the room.Passage BThe teacher left the room. The students fooled around.Question: Why did the students fool around?Learners reading the grammatically more complex passage (A) will, allthings being equal, find the comprehension question easier to answerthan those learners reading passage B. This is because the cause/effectrelationship is explicitly marked in passage A by the conjunction‘because’, whereas readers of passage B will have to infer the relation-ship. (And, in fact, psychologists have found that student processing timeis longer for comprehension exercises that require inferencing.) In addition to grammatical complexity, difficulty will be affected bythe length of a text, propositional density (how much information ispackaged into the text and how it is distributed and recycled), theamount of low-frequency vocabulary, the speed of spoken texts and thenumber of speakers involved, the explicitness of the information, the dis-course structure and the clarity with which this is signalled (for example,paragraphs in which the main point is buried away will probably bemore difficult to process than those in which the information is clearlyforegrounded in the opening sentence of the paragraph). In addition, ithas been found that a passage in which the information is presented inthe same chronological order as it occurred in real life is easier to processthan one in which the information is presented out of sequence (Brownand Yule 1983). The amount of support provided to the listener or reader will also havea bearing on textual difficulty. A passage with headings and sub-headingswhich is supported with photographs, drawings, tables, graphs and soon should be easier to process than one in which there is no contextualsupport. (I say ‘should’ advisedly. The extent to which all these factorsdo promote comprehension needs to be demonstrated empirically.) 115
  • Grading, sequencing and integrating tasks Numerous investigations have been conducted into the comprehen-sibility of modified and unmodified versions of aural and written texts.An early study, by Parker and Chaudron (1987), compared the compre-hensibility of a text that had been elaborated rather than simplified. Theyfound that the elaborated text, in which the same content was presentedin several ways, did not lead to lower comprehensibility as measured bya cloze test. While the researchers pointed out that more research wasneeded into the effect of interaction, elaboration and simplification onthe comprehensibility of aural and written texts, they did argue in favourof elaboration rather than simplification. Having an overall schema to make sense of input is also important.The importance of top-down schematic knowledge in facilitating com-prehension is illustrated by the following story. (We will look in greaterdetail at the notion of schema in the next section.) Reflect Read the following passage, then close the book and see how much of the story you can recall. If the balloons popped, the sound wouldn’t be able to carry since everything would be too far away from the correct floor. A closed window would prevent the sound from carrying, since most build- ings tend to be well insulated. Since the whole operation depends on a steady flow of electricity, a break in the middle of the wire would also cause problems. Of course, the fellow could shout, but the human voice is not loud enough to carry that far. An addi- tional problem is that the wire could break on the instrument. Then there could be no accompaniment to the message. It is clear that the best situation would involve less distance. Then there would be fewer potential problems. With face-to-face contact, the least number of things could go wrong. (Bransford and Johnson 1972: 717).Most people have a great deal of difficulty remembering much of thestory at all. The story was used in a well-known experiment by two psychologistswho found that subjects who heard the story as it appears above under-stood very little. However, subjects who were given an accompanyingvisual that provided a context were able to reconstruct a coherentversion of the story. The picture showed a man serenading his girlfriendon an electric guitar. The girl was in a high-rise apartment, and the mangot his message to her by suspending a loud-speaker from a bunch of bal-loons.116
  • Grading input Another factor that has an impact on processing difficulty is the typeor ‘genre’ of text (Hammond and Derewianka 2001). Genre theoristsargue, for example, that narratives, recounts and descriptive texts will beeasier to process than abstract or argumentative texts involving theexpression of opinions and attitudes. Reflect Compare the following passages from Robinson (1977: 80, 118, 129 and 121) and rank them according to their likely difficulty for elementary level readers. Can you identify which features or char- acteristics (i.e. vocabulary, grammar, genre, etc.) are responsible for text difficulty, or do these various features interact to cause diffi- culty?PASSAGE AThe boy felt his way up the creaking stairs through thick darkness, hiseyes raised to the faint moonlight that shone along the landing. Hestopped as the great clock below whirred for a few seconds and gave outa single solemn stroke. He hesitated as the sound died down and thencrept on, thinking if they could sleep through that, they would sleepthrough any noise he could make. All he had to do was get past thatcentral door on the landing: he was just telling himself he was safe whenthe door was flung open and the gaunt old man grabbed him by theshoulder.PASSAGE BSound travels at 760 miles per hour, and in the early years of aviation itmust have seemed to many that aircraft would always be confined to sub-sonic speeds by the inexorable laws of nature. However, aircraft speedwas increased by constant improvements, until, shortly after the SecondWorld War, the first aircraft were built which were capable of speedsfaster than that of sound. High speeds presented designers with problemsof three kinds, which had to be solved before regular supersonic flightscould be considered feasible.PASSAGE CRedundancy is a pattern of increasing concern to managers and to pro-fessional people who work for companies. The complexity of modernindustry means that ‘executives’ now constitute a larger proportions ofa firm’s population than before, so that reorganization of managementstructures make their jobs more precarious than they were in the past.Financial compensation for redundancy is provided under the law, butmoney does not compensate for the satisfaction that many such people 117
  • Grading, sequencing and integrating tasksget from their work and of which redundancy deprives them so that theyhave considerable problems to face. There are of course wide differencesamong redundant managers in personality, age, social and family back-ground and reemployment prospects, so that individuals react in varyingways, but few go through the experience with equanimity and for mostit is an ordeal.PASSAGE D‘The Game is Forever’ by Jonathan Frost at the Minuscule Theatre. Lastnight’s first night of Mr Frost’s play at the Minuscule was a memorableevent in my career as a critic, setting new records in the simulation offoot-shuffling and eye rolling, in the production of groans, both sup-pressed and uttered, and in the intensity of desire it engendered to quitthe scene of torture. But I must be calm; it’s all over now, the threatimplied in the title was mercifully not fulfilled, and it is my duty to tellyou what happened. A good deal, indeed far too much, was said anddone on the stage last night, but nothing can be said to have happened.While these passages have all been taken from the same book, they arenot all of the same order of difficulty. Not only do they vary in terms oflinguistic complexity (for example in terms of grammar and vocabulary),but they also vary in terms of topic and text type. As we know from genretheory, the latter has an important bearing on difficulty (Hammond andDerewianka 2001). In considering topic, it is generally assumed that abstract topics suchas ‘redundancy’ will pose greater challenges for the reader than moreconcrete topics such as ‘speed’ or ‘advertising’. However, the extent ofthe challenge will depend partly on the learner’s background knowledgeof the topic in question. A text on an unfamiliar concrete topic may wellbe more challenging than a text on a familiar abstract topic. This raises the issue of learner factors, and it is to these that we nowturn.Learner factorsIn a classic book on reading comprehension, Pearson and Johnson(1972) distinguish between what they call ‘inside the head’ factors and‘outside the head’ factors. ‘Inside the head’ factors are all those that thelearner brings to the task of processing and producing language such asbackground knowledge, interest, motivation and other factors that welook at below. Pearson and Johnson argue that comprehension is aprocess of building bridges between the known and the unknown. Inother words, we bring to the comprehension process our pre-existing118
  • Learner factorsknowledge, and try to fit new knowledge into this pre-existing frame-work. In those cases where the new knowledge will not fit into our pre-existing framework, we will have to either modify and adapt theframework, or develop an entirely new mental framework altogether. We can illustrate this as follows. When reading or listening to a storyset in a restaurant, we will call up our mental restaurant ‘map’ to helpus understand the story. The restaurant has been constructed from pastrestaurant experiences. If these experiences have been confined to four-star restaurants, and the story we are reading is set in a fast food restau-rant, we may have difficulty comprehending some of the things going on– why, for example, customers go directly to a food counter to place theirorder rather than having it taken by a waiter. After reading the story, wemay have to alter our ‘restaurant’ framework to accommodate newinformation. Alternatively, we may need to create a new framework forfast food restaurants. In learning another language and functioning in an unfamiliar cultu-ral context, we will have to do this constantly. Here is an anecdote thatillustrates the cultural significance of knowledge frameworks. When I was in Taiwan, I went out to this restaurant for a business dinner with maybe five or six people, and I was the least important person. There was the manager of our Asian office, a local sales rep- resentative, and a few other important people. Our host offered me a seat, and I took it, and everyone looked sort of uncomfortable, but no one said anything. But I could tell somehow I had done some- thing wrong. And by Western standards I really didn’t feel I had. I simply sat down in the seat I was given. I knew I had embarrassed everyone, and it had something to do with where I was sitting, but I didn’t know what it was. . . . Towards the end of the evening, our Asian manager in Taiwan said, ‘Just so that you know, you took the seat of honor, and you probably shouldn’t have.’ And I thought to myself, ‘Well, what did I do wrong?’ And I asked her, and she said, ‘Well, you took the seat that was facing the door, and in Taiwan, that’s the seat that’s reserved for the most important person in the party, so that if the seat is offered to you, you should decline it. You should decline it several times, and perhaps on the fourth or fifth time that someone insists that you sit there as the foreign guest, you should, but you shouldn’t sit there right away, as you did.’ (Nunan 1997)In this situation, the person applied his Western restaurant knowledgeframework which says that when you are offered a seat by a host youtake it. However, in many Eastern contexts, this is the wrong thing to do,as the person in the preceding anecdote discovered to his discomfort.However, the experience would have led him to modify his restaurant 119
  • Grading, sequencing and integrating tasksframework. Seen in this way, even relatively uncomfortable learningexperiences can be enriching. Brindley (1987) suggests that, in addition to background knowledge,learner factors will include confidence, motivation, prior learning expe-rience, learning pace, observed ability in language skills, cultural knowl-edge / awareness and linguistic knowledge. He proposes a list ofquestions that need to be considered in relation to each of these factors. Factor Question Confidence • How confident does the learner have to be to carry out the task? • Does the learner have the necessary level of confidence? Motivation • How motivating is the task? Prior learning experience • Does the task assume familiarity with certain learning skills? • Does the learner’s prior learning experi- ence provide the necessary learning skills/strategies to carry out the task? Learning pace • How much learning material has the learner shown he/she is capable of handling? • Is the task broken down into manage- able parts? Observed ability in • What is the learner’s assessed ability in language skills the skills concerned? • Does this assessment conform to his/her observed behaviour in class? • In the light of the teacher’s assessment, what overall level of performance can reasonably be expected? Cultural knowledge/ • Does the task assume cultural knowledge? awareness • If so, can the learner be expected to have it? • Does the task assume knowledge of a particular subject? Linguistic knowledge • How much linguistic knowledge does the learner have? • What linguistic knowledge is assumed by the task?Adapted from Brindley 1987.120
  • Learner factors Reflect Which of these factors do you think are most likely to be of rele- vance when considering task difficulty in relation to your own stu- dents? Select the three factors that you think are most important when selecting learning tasks, say why they’re important, and indicate how you would take them into consideration in selecting and sequencing tasks.One of the implications of the preceding discussion is that input factorsand learner factors are interdependent. For example, there will be aninteraction between the grammatical complexity of the input and thelearner’s linguistic knowledge. The problem for the teacher or materialsdeveloper comes in trying to estimate just how much linguistic and back-ground knowledge the learner is likely to have. In relation to readingcomprehension, for example, Pearson and Johnson (1972: 10) capturedthe dilemma as follows: [there is an interdependence] between inside the head and outside the head factors. Text readability really boils down to linguistic factors like word difficulty (how familiar are the words?) and sen- tence complexity (how difficult is it to wade through coordinated and subordinated text segments?). Hence, one cannot know how difficult a text will be until and unless one knows something about the linguistic and conceptual sophistication of the reader: one person’s Scientific American is another person’s daily newspaper. In short, all these factors interact with one another.To make things even more complex, there is an interaction between thelinguistic and content (including cultural) knowledge of readers and lis-teners as they process written and spoken language (Rost 2002). Secondlanguage learners can compensate for lack of linguistic knowledge bydrawing on their content knowledge. Conversely, if they lack appropri-ate background content knowledge, this will adversely affect their abilityto mobilize their linguistic knowledge appropriately. In a study carriedout some years ago, it was found that lack of appropriate content knowl-edge had a more significant adverse effect on the ability of secondary ESLstudents to comprehend school texts than lack of linguistic knowledge(Nunan 1993, 1999). Of course, both are important, but teachers of ESLstudents can help learners by integrating both linguistic and contentinstruction, rather than by teaching these separately (see the sectionbelow on content-based instruction). The problem for the teacher andtextbook writer wanting to accommodate learners’ content knowledgeis how to estimate just what the learners do or do not know. 121
  • Grading, sequencing and integrating tasks Reflect How would you estimate the extent of your learners’ content knowledge?Procedural factorsThe final set of factors to be considered are those to do with procedures,that is, the operations that learners are required to perform on inputdata. With the increasing use of authentic texts, the trend has been tocontrol difficulty, not by simplifying the input data but by varying thedifficulty level of the procedures themselves. This principle of holding theinput constant, but varying the difficulty of the procedures, is illustratedwith the following extract from a recently published listening series.(Nunan 2003: 17)122
  • Procedural factors Reflect Do you agree that the second set of procedures is more difficult than the first? What are the factors determining ease and difficulty here?The two procedures here exploit the same piece of listening material: adiscussion between a number of individuals who are planning a socialfamily event. However, the second is much more challenging than thefirst. The first requires only a very general understanding of the text,whereas the second requires detailed aural processing, and the extractionof a considerable amount of information. The following factors will determine the complexity of what the learn-ers have to do. They have been adapted from a number of sources includ-ing Brindley 1987. (See also Candlin 1987; Nunan 1999; Skehan 1998and Robinson 2001, as well as the prior discussion in Chapter 3.) Factor Question Relevance • Is the task meaningful and relevant to the learner? Complexity • How many steps are involved in the task? • How complex are the instructions? • What cognitive demands does the task make on the learner? • How much information is the learner expected to process in performing the task? Amount of context • How much prior knowledge of the provided prior to the task world, the situation or the cultural context is assumed in the way the task is framed? • How much preliminary activity is allowed for in order to introduce the task and set the context? Processibility of language • Is the language that learners are of the task expected to produce in line with their processing capacity? • Can the learners use any language at their disposal, or is the task a ‘focused’ one requiring deployment of a particular task? ➳ 123
  • Grading, sequencing and integrating tasks Amount of help available • How much assistance can the learner get to the learner from the teacher, other learners, books or other learning aids? • In the case of interactive tasks, is the interlocutor sympathetic, does he/she provide help? Degree of grammatical • What is his/her tolerance level of non- complexity standard language? • How ‘standard’ does the task require accuracy/fluency/ learners to be? • What is the desired effect on the inter- locutor? • Does he/she demand accuracy, fluency or both? • What degree of complexity is required by the learners? Time available to the • How long does the learner have to carry learner out the task? • Is planning and rehearsal time built into the task? Follow-up • Is there some kind of follow-up, provid- ing debriefing and feedback?Applying these factors to the kinds of goal statements set out in Chapter2, we can generate graded sets of specifications such as those below forbeginner, pre-intermediate and intermediate level learners. These can beused in developing graded syllabuses, materials and units of work.Social and interpersonal language Beginner Pre-intermediate High intermediate introducing yourself discussing plans varying your greeting others describing others conversational style asking who other people talking about your to suit your audience are interests using conversational talking about your discussing your strategies such as family vacation plans seeking turns and asking and answering expressing obligation holding the floor questions about where discussing personal narrating anecdotes you’re from habits and personal stories welcoming someone talking about past expressing approval offering, accepting and events and disapproval refusing expressing surprise expressing satisfaction/ offering congratulations dissatisfaction124
  • Task continuityInformational language Beginner Pre-intermediate High intermediate asking about and stating making reservations discussing problems prices following a linked and offering solutions asking for and giving sequence of taking and relaying directions instructions messages describing procedures discussing job reporting what others ordering food and drink experience and said asking for additional education expressing obligation informationAffective Beginner Pre-intermediate High intermediate reciting songs and identifying someone’s listening to / reading rhymes emotional state from imaginative texts tone and intonation for pleasure writing short, imagina- tive textFor further exemplification of graded tasks for the macroskills, seeAppendix D.Task continuityThe terms ‘continuity’, ‘dependency’ and ‘chaining’ all refer to the samething: the interdependence of tasks, task components and supportingenabling skills within an instructional sequence. In Chapter 2, I intro-duced one such procedure – one that I use as my ‘default option’ whenplanning instructional sequences for general English programs with afour-skills focus. Another alternative is the ‘psycholinguistic processing’ approach. Thisapproach sequences tasks according to the cognitive and performancedemands made upon the learner. The following steps in a possibleinstructional sequence require learners to undertake activities whichbecome increasingly demanding, moving from comprehension-basedprocedures to controlled production activities and exercises, and finallyto ones requiring authentic communicative interaction. 125
  • Grading, sequencing and integrating tasks Phases Steps within phase A. Processing 1. Read or study a text – no other (comprehension) response required. 2. Read or listen to a text and give a non-verbal, physical response (e.g. learner raises hand every time key words are heard). 3. Read or listen to a text and give a non-physical, non-verbal response (e.g. check-off a box or grid every time key words are heard). 4. Read or listen to a text and give a verbal response (e.g. write down key words every time they are heard). B. Productive 5. Listen to cue utterances, or dialogue fragments and repeat them, or repeat a complete version of the cue. 6. Listen to a cue and complete a sub- stitution or transformation drill. 7. Listen to a cue (e.g. a question) and give a meaningful response (i.e. one that is true for the learner). C. Interactive 8. Role play (e.g. having listened to a conversation in which people talk about their family, students, working from role cards, circulate and find other members of their family). 9. Simulation/discussion (e.g. students in small groups share information about their own families). 10. Problem-solving / information gap (e.g. in an information gap task, stu- dents are split into three groups; each group listens to an incomplete description of a family; students recombine and have to complete a family tree, identify which picture from a number of alternatives repre- sents the family, etc.).In this ten-step sequence, the demands on the learner gradually increase,both within each phase, and from one phase to the next. The sequenceprovides yet another illustration of task-chaining or continuity, in thatskills acquired and practised in one step are extended in succeeding steps.126
  • Task continuity Reflect Create an instructional sequence based on the above three-stage procedure.One of the earliest and most exciting projects based on the concept oftask chaining or continuity was the Challenges project developed inEurope in the early days of the communicative language teaching ‘revo-lution’. I have included it here, however, not as an historical ‘relic’ butbecause the principles are as relevant today as when the approach wasdevised. In this approach, tasks were sequenced not only according totheir complexity as determined by input, learner and procedural factors,but also by the logic of themes and learning pathways. By allowing learn-ers a range of alternative pathways that matched their needs and inter-ests, the pedagogy enabled a degree of individualization unusual incommercial products. The organization of activity chains in each learn-ing module is described in the following way: Thematically, the Chains in each Module each handle one aspect of the view taken under the Unit Theme of that Module. If there are five Chains, for example, in a Module, the learners will have the opportunity (if they want to) to work through five different ways of looking at that general view of the theme. But remember, here there is no rule that says that all the Chains in a given Module have to be worked through. Let us take an example from SOMETHING TO SAY, the Module titled: WAYS TO SAY IT. There are six Chains in this Module and as a result six aspects of the Module view of the theme: A: Slanted information in the mass media. Sorting out facts from opinion. B: The idea of a community newspaper Lower Down. C: How to get your ideas across in public: slogans and speeches. D: How to find out what other people think about a problem: using questionnaires. E: How to get your opinion across in public: writing to news- papers. F: Who do we talk to, and what do we talk about. G: How to search for information. Using study skills to broaden your knowledge. Hopefully you can see how the Chains attack the theme in differ- ent ways and how you might become involved in the theme through different entry points. Organisationally and pedagogically, the Chains provide a framework for a series of skill steps leading up to a more complex communicative activity, a Task. Here is an 127
  • Grading, sequencing and integrating tasks example from Chain b of the first Module in the unit SOME- WHERE TO LIVE. Step 1: Learners listen to a taped telephone conversation in which the line is bad and the participants constantly have to use language which shows that they have not heard correctly what the other person said. As a result they often have to repeat what they said, and, in doing so, they express their meaning in a different way. Step 2: Learners can do a true/false exercise to make sure that they have caught the gist of the conversation on the telephone. Step 3: Learners can then do a listening and note-taking exercise in which they note down the ways in which the speakers showed that they had not heard, and the ways in which they repeated what they had to say. Step 4: Learners are then given a partial or ‘defective’ dialogue in the form of a telephone conversation of the same kind as they have experienced. Here, they can make use of expressions for ‘showing you haven’t heard’, and ‘reporting things’ which they have noted down. (Candlin and Edelhoff 1982: 26)Within-task sequencing: the information gapIn the preceding section, we looked at some of the options for sequenc-ing tasks within an instructional cycle. In this section, I would like toshift the lens down a little to look at procedural sequences within a task.I have chosen to illustrate these points with reference to a common com-municative task type, the information gap, but the points could apply toother task types as well. The standard way of dividing any mini-sequence is into three phases:a pre-task phase, a task-proper phase and a follow-up phase. The pre-task phase fulfils a similar function as schema-building tasks in largerinstruction sequences. It orients the learners to the task, generates inter-est, and rehearses essential language that will be required to complete thetask. In the task-proper phase learners complete the task. In the follow-up phase they get a debriefing from the teacher, report the results of thetask back to the class as a whole, and may receive corrective feedbackfrom the teacher. This phase may also act as a segue into the pre-taskphase of the next task cycle.128
  • Within-task sequencing: the information gap Reflect Design a pre-task and a follow-up to the following task. Before doing so, identify the functions and structures to be elicited by the task. If possible, share these with one or two other people and note similarities and differences of approach.Student AA Look at the activities in the chart. Which are related to work andwhich are not? Friday Saturday Saturday Sunday Sunday evening afternoon evening afternoon evening Meet boss Prepare for Bob Work late ––––––––– at airport ––––––––– a meeting Go Karen ––––––––– Free ––––––––– shopping ––––––––– Philip Free ––––––––– Free ––––––––– Free Take car Bake Joan ––––––––– to garage ––––––––– cookies –––––––––B You and your partner want to go and see a movie with your friends.Ask questions and decide the best time to go.C Change one thing about each person’s schedule. Do task B again.Student BA Look at the activities in the chart. Which are related to work andwhich are not? Friday Saturday Saturday Sunday Sunday evening afternoon evening afternoon evening Go to Bob ––––––––– meeting ––––––––– Free ––––––––– Go to visit Karen Clean aunt in apartment ––––––––– in hospital ––––––––– Free Study for Philip ––––––––– Play tennis ––––––––– exam ––––––––– Go to Joan Free ––––––––– concert ––––––––– Free 129
  • Grading, sequencing and integrating tasksB You and your partner want to go and see a movie with your friends.Ask questions and decide the best time to go.C Change one thing about each person’s schedule. Do task B again.As already indicated, this is an information gap task. Students work inpairs and have access to different information. Student A looks at thefirst grid and student B looks at the second grid. The grids are on differ-ent pieces of paper so that A does not know what information B has andvice versa. Bob, Karen, Philip and Joan are their friends. The task gen-erates language such as the following:A: What’s Karen doing on Friday evening?B: She has to clean her apartment. What’s Bob doing?A: He’s working late.Once the grid is filled in they decide which time is best because mostpeople are free.Here is one possible procedure.Pre-task A Number the questions and answers to make a conversation (1–6) Carol: [ ] Oh no, I forgot. I have to work late tonight. Pete: [ ] Do you want to go to a concert tonight? Pete: [ ] The Screamers. Carol: [ ] Hi Pete. Carol: [ ] Who’s playing? Pete: [ ] Hello Carol. B Check your answers. C Practise the conversation with a partner. Then practise again using your own information.The information gap task practises ‘invitations’ and ‘making plans’, and‘making excuses’ as well as ‘go to’ / ‘have to’. The pre-task rehearses thislanguage in a controlled and then slightly less controlled way.130
  • Content-based instructionFollow-upA Make a note of the things you have to do this week. Leave two spacesfree. Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Afternoon EveningB Talk to several other students and arrange a time to see a movie. Youmight need to change your schedule.Topic-based / theme-based instructionIn Chapter 2, I discussed the use of topics and themes as the organizingprinciple for task-based syllabuses. In that chapter, I used the example of‘the neighbourhood’, and showed how this enabled the various elementsin the task framework to be fitted together. When developing curriculafor general English programs, I tend to favour a topic/theme-basedapproach because it affords maximum flexibility and allows me to bringin a wide variety of content that can be tailored to learner needs. In morespecific-purpose course design, I tend to favour variations on content-based instruction.Content-based instructionContent-based instruction (CBI) has been popular in certain parts of theworld for many years. Despite variations, the thing that unites differentapproaches to CBI is that the point of departure for syllabus design andmaterials development is derived from experiential content rather thanlinguistic criteria. They therefore fit squarely within the ‘analytical’rather than ‘synthetic’ syllabus tradition (Wilkins 1976). This contentmay come from other subjects on the school curriculum, such as science,history, environmental studies, or it might be generated from an analy-sis of students’ interests and needs. One of the first people to develop a comprehensive framework for CBIwas Mohan (1986). He justified the use of CBI on the grounds that itfacilitated learning not merely through language but with language: 131
  • Grading, sequencing and integrating tasks We cannot achieve this goal if we assume that language learning and subject-matter learning are totally separate and unrelated operations. Yet language and subject matter are still standardly considered in isolation from each other. (Mohan 1986: iii)Content-based instruction has several benefits, all of which are in accordwith the general thrust of other analytical approaches introduced in thisbook. In the first place, it is underpinned by the organic, analyticalapproach to language development advocated here. Secondly, it can helpschool learners master other aspects of school learning in addition to lan-guage, and it does so in an integrated way. Thirdly, it provides a frame-work within which learners can have sustained engagement on bothcontent mastery and second language acquisition (Murphy and Stoller2001). For all these reasons, it can raise motivation and heighten theengagement of the learner in his or her own learning process. Brinton (2003) sets out five principles for CBI. These are summarizedin the following table. Principle Comment Base instructional decisions on Content-based instruction allows content rather than language the choice of content to dictate or criteria. influence the selection and sequencing of language items. Integrate skills. CBI practitioners use an integrated skills approach to language teaching, covering all four language skills as well as grammar and vocabulary. This reflects what happens in the real world, where interactions involve multiple skills simultaneously. Involve students actively in all In CBI classrooms, students learn phases of the learning process. through doing and are actively engaged in the learning process; they do not depend on the teacher to direct all learning or to be the source of all information. Choose content for its relevance The choice of content in CBI to students’ lives, interests courses ultimately depends on the and / or academic goals. student and the instructional set- tings. In many school contexts, content-based language instruction closely parallels school subjects. ➳132
  • Project-based instruction Select authentic texts and tasks. A key component of CBI is authenticity – both of the texts used in the classroom and the tasks that the learners are asked to perform. Reflect Select a unit of work from a school or college textbook and design an instructional sequence integrating content and language.Project-based instructionProject-based instruction has a great deal in common with the two pre-ceding approaches. Projects can be thought of as ‘maxi-tasks’, that is acollection of sequenced and integrated tasks that all add up to a finalproject. For example, a simulation project such as ‘buying a new car,’might include the following subsidiary tasks:1. Evaluating available options and selecting a suitable model based on price, features and so on.2. Selecting an appropriate car firm from a series of classified advertise- ments.3. Arranging for a bank loan through negotiation with a bank or finance house.4. Role-playing between purchaser and salesperson for purchase of the car.Ribe and Vidal (1993) argue that project-based instruction has evolvedthrough three ‘generations’ of tasks. (Slightly confusingly, they tend touse the terms ‘project’ and ‘task’ interchangeably.) First-generation tasksfocus primarily on the development of communicative ability. These aresimilar to tasks as they have been conventionally defined in this book.Example of a first-generation task Problem-solving The students have a map with bus and underground routes. They discuss and select the best route for going from one point to another according to a set of given variables (price, time, distance, comfort, etc.) (Ribe and Vidal 1993: 2) Second-generation tasks are designed to develop not only communi-cative competence but also cognitive aspects of the learner as well. They 133
  • Grading, sequencing and integrating tasksthus incorporate a learning strategies dimension, developing thinkingskills, cognitive strategies for handling and organizing information andso on.Example of a second-generation task Through foreigners’ eyes The objective of this task is to collect and analyse information on what tourists of different nationalities think of the students’ country/city/town. 1. Students decide (a) what they need to know; (b) how to get the information (interviews, questionnaires, tourist brochures, etc.); (c) where to get the information (airport, beach, library, tourist information office, etc.); (d) when to obtain the informa- tion; (e) what grids / database format they want to use to collate the information; (f) the kind of questionnaires/interviews they want to devise; (g) the language they need to carry out the inter- views. 2. Students carry out the research, transcribe the interviews and put the information together. 3. Students select relevant data, decide on a format (posters, dossier, etc.) for their presentation. 4. Students make a report and present it. (Ribe and Vidal 1993: 11)Just as second-generation tasks incorporate the characteristics of first-generation tasks, so third-generation tasks incorporate the characteris-tics of first- and second-generation tasks. In addition to fostering com-municative competence and cognitive development, they also aim atpersonality development through foreign language education. ‘Third-generation tasks fulfill wider educational objectives (attitudinal changeand motivation, learner awareness, etc.) and so are especially appropri-ate for the school setting, where motivation for the learning of theforeign language needs to be enhanced.’ ➳134
  • ConclusionExample of a third-generation task Designing an alternative world 1. Students and teachers brainstorm aspects of their environment they like and those they would most like to see improved. These may include changes to the geographical setting, nature, animal- life, housing, society, family, leisure activities, politics, etc. 2. Students are put into groups according to common interests. The groups identify the language and information they need. The students carry out individual and group research on selected topics. The students discuss aspects of this ‘alternative reality’ and then report back. They decide on the different ways (stories, recordings, games, etc.) to link all the research and present the final product. 3. Students present the topic and evaluate the activity. (Ribe and Vidal 1993: 2)Projects, then, are integrated ‘maxi-tasks’ that could last over the courseof a semester, or even over a year. A project can either constitute the mainelement of instruction to a foreign language class, or run in parallel withmore traditional instructions. Regardless of how it fits into the curricu-lum, Ribe and Vidal (1993) recommend the following ten-step sequencefor implementing project-based instruction. 1. create a good class atmosphere 2. get the class interested 3. select the topic 4. create a general outline of the project 5. do basic research around the topic 6. report to the class 7. process feedback 8. put it all together 9. present the project 10. assess and evaluate the project.ConclusionIn this chapter, I have explored some of the key factors involved ingrading, sequencing and integrating tasks. As we have seen, there aremany factors determining task difficulty, and deciding on the appropriateordering of tasks is, in some cases, a matter of trial and error. In addition 135
  • Grading, sequencing and integrating tasksto the number of factors to be taken into consideration, there is also theissue that the factors themselves are interrelated. Thus, the difficulty ofa task based on a relatively simple input text can be increased by adjust-ing the procedural demands on the learners rather than by changing theinput. In the second part of the chapter, I looked at some proposals forsequencing and integrating tasks, including topic/theme-based, content-based and project-based instruction. Although the suggestions made hereare by no means exhaustive, they serve to demonstrate the ways in whichtasks can be sequenced and integrated with other activity and exercisetypes.ReferencesBransford, J. and M. Johnson. 1972. Contextual prerequisites for understand- ing: Some investigations of comprehension and recall. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Recall, 11, 717–26.Brindley, G. 1987. Factors affecting task difficulty. In D. Nunan (ed.) Guidelines for the Development of Curriculum Resources. Adelaide: National Curriculum Resource Centre.Brinton, D. 2003. Content-based instruction. In D. Nunan (ed.) Practical English Language Teaching. New York: McGraw Hill.Brown, G. and G. Yule. 1983. Teaching the Spoken Language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Candlin, C. 1987. Toward task-based learning. In C. Candlin and D. Murphy (eds) Language Learning Tasks. Englewood Cliffs NJ: Prentice-Hall.Candlin, C. and C. Edelhoff. 1982. Challenges: Teacher’s book. London: Longman.Ellis, R. 1994. The Study of Second Language Acquisition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Hammond, J. and B. Derewianka. 2001. Genre. In R. Carter and D. Nunan (eds) The Cambridge Guide to TESOL. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Mohan, B. 1986. Language and Content. Reading MA: Addison-Wesley.Murphy, J. and F. Stoller. 2001. Sustained-content language teaching: An emerg- ing definition. TESOL Journal, 10, 2–3.Nunan, D. 1993. Introducing Discourse Analysis. London: Penguin.Nunan, D. 1997. ATLAS: Learning-Centered Communication. Level 3 Student’s Book. Boston MA.: Heinle / Thomson.Nunan, D. 1999. Second Language Teaching and Learning. Boston MA.: Heinle and Heinle.Nunan, D. 2003. Listen: Student book 3. Boston MA: Heinle and Heinle.Parker, K. and C. Chaudron. 1987. The effects of linguistic simplification and elaborative modifications on L2 comprehension. The University of Hawaii Working Papers in ESL, 6, 2, 107–133.136
  • ReferencesPearson, P. D. and D. D. Johnson. 1972. Teaching Reading Comprehension. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.Pienemann, M. and M. Johnston. 1987. Factors affecting the development of language proficiency. In D. Nunan (ed.) Applying Second Language Aquisition Research. Adelaide, National Curriculum Resource Centre.Robinson, C. 1977. Advanced Use of English: a coursebook. London: Hamish Hamilton.Robinson, P. 2001. Cognition and Second Language Instruction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Rost, M. 2002. Teaching and Researching Listening. London: Longman.Ribe, R. and N. Vidal. 1993. Project Work Step by Step. Oxford: Heinemann.Richards, J., J. Platt and H. Weber. 1986. Longman Dictionary of Applied Linguistics. London: Longman.Rudolph, S. 1993. Project-Based Learning. Tokyo: Newbury House.Skehan, P. 1998. A Cognitive Approach to Language Learning. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Wilkins, D. 1976. Notional Syllabuses. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 137
  • 7 Assessing task-based language teachingIntroduction and overviewTask-based language teaching presents challenges in all areas of the cur-riculum. This is particularly so in the area of assessment. Traditional,language-based curricula provide a convenient basis for the assessmentspecialist whose point of departure in developing assessment instrumentsis to provide a representative sampling of the grammar, vocabulary andphonological features of the language. These are then assessed, usuallythrough some indirect form of assessment. While it is always possible tocontinue using traditional methods to assess students who are learningthrough task-based teaching, this violates a key curriculum principle,which is that assessment should reflect what has been taught. Aligning this principle with TBLT makes direct assessment inevitable.An additional problem, as we saw in Chapter 5, is that there is rarely asimple one-to-one correlation between communicative tasks and thelinguistic elements through which they are realized (Willis and Willis,2001). Understandably, this chapter draws on some of the research summar-ized in Chapter 4. It also reports on some additional research related spe-cifically to assessment.Key concepts in assessmentEvaluation versus assessmentIn this chapter, I will draw a distinction between evaluation and assess-ment, two terms which in some contexts are used interchangeably. Forme, ‘evaluation’ is a broad, general set of procedures involving the col-lection and interpretation of information for curricular decision-making.This information will generally include data on what learners can andcannot do in the language. Procedures for collecting this learner data arereferred to as ‘assessment’. Assessment is thus a subset of evaluation.Testing is one form of assessment. It includes the more formal collectionof data on learner performance. In other words, assessment subsumestesting and is, in turn, subsumed by evaluation.138
  • Key concepts in assessment Evaluation can take place at any time, and any aspect of the curricu-lum can be evaluated. At the beginning of the curriculum planningprocess, for example, the curriculum developer might design a needsassessment instrument for collecting data. This instrument could be eval-uated by, for instance, subjecting it to peer review. Gronlund (1981) argues that assessment measures need to satisfy threetypes of validity. These are content validity, criterion-related validity andconstruct validity, which are summarized in the following table. Eachpresents particular challenges to the assessment of learner performancein task-based language teaching. Type Meaning Procedure Content validity How well does the Compare the test tasks sample of tasks repre- to the test specifica- sent the domain of tions describing the tasks to be measured? task domain under consideration. Criterion-related How well does test Compare test scores validity performance predict with another measure future performance or of performance estimate current obtained at a later performance on some date (for prediction) valued measures other or with another than the test itself? measure of perfor- mance obtained concurrently (for estimating present status). Construct validity How can test Experimentally deter- performance be mine what factors described psycholo- influence scores on the gically? test.Indirect versus direct assessmentAnother important distinction is between indirect and direct assessment.In direct assessment, learners are required to reproduce, in the testing sit-uation, the kinds of communicative behaviours they will need to carryout in the real world. In indirect tests, as the label implies, the test doesnot resemble outside-class performance. 139
  • Assessing task-based language teaching Reflect Consider the following assessment items. What are they attempting to measure? What would successful performance tell the teacher and/or the learner? Are the items direct or indirect?Example 1Underline the correct word in the parentheses.Example: You have a headache. You (should / shouldn’t) go to the party.He’s hungry. He (should/shouldn’t) eat something.They are very tired. They (should/shouldn’t) do strenuous exercise.You are stressed out. You (should/shouldn’t) stay home and relax.He is stressed out. He (should/shouldn’t) talk about homework.She has a toothache. She (should/shouldn’t eat junk food.Example 2Match the problem with the advice.I can’t sleep at night. You should listen to quiet music.I have a sore throat. You should see a dentist.I am stressed out. You shouldn’t go out at night.I have a headache. You should see a doctor.I’m very tired. You should lie down and rest.I have a toothache. You should drink hot tea with honey.Example 3Your teacher will ask you five questions from the following list. Be pre-pared to answer the questions. 1. Are you an exchange student? 2. How do you spell your last name? 3. What’s your address? 4. What kind of music do you like? 5. What does your mother (or father/brother/sister) look like? 6. What do you want to be? 7. What does your friend want to be? 8. Did you go to the movies yesterday? 9. Would you like pizza for dinner? What would you like on it?10. Are you watching TV? What are you doing now?11. Is your friend very serious? What’s your friend like?12. What did you and your family (or friends) do over the weekend?13. Are you moody? What are you like?14. What are you wearing today?15. How’s the weather today?140
  • Key concepts in assessmentExample 4Work with another student. Take turns to be Student A and Student B. Student A Student B 1. Ask Student B ‘How was your vacation?’ 2. Answer Student A. 3. Ask Student B ‘Where did you go?’ 4. Answer Student A. 5. Ask Student B ‘How was the weather?’ 6. Answer Student A. 7. Ask Student B ‘How long did you stay?’ 8. Answer Student A.(Source: Nunan 1999b)System-referenced versus performance-referenced tasksAnother important distinction in task-based language testing, and onethat is related to the direct/indirect distinction, is that between system-referenced tests and performance-referenced tests (Robinson and Ross1996). A system-referenced test item requires the candidate to demon-strate knowledge of the phonological, lexical or grammatical systems ofthe language. It is designed to ‘evaluate language mastery as a psycho-logical construct without specific reference to any particular use of it’(Baker 1990: 76). A performance-based item, on the other hand, requiresthe learner to demonstrate an ability to use the language. Robinson and Ross (1996: 459) provide the following schematic rep-resentation of the relationship between the concepts of direct and indi-rect tests and system versus performance-referencing. Mode System-referenced Performance-referenced Direct Sample of oral or written Communicative simulation of language via interview and/or target tasks, e.g. library skills, composition reading test Indirect Grammar and reading Breakdown of simulation into multiple-choice tests sub-tasks for multiple-choice formatsThe question arises, then, as to why one would use indirect assessmentmeasures in the first place. There are several reasons. In the first place,performance-based assessment, particularly the assessment of speaking,can be difficult to set up and control. Grading learner performance canalso be highly problematic. Discrete-point test items such as the ones 141
  • Assessing task-based language teachingabove, on the other hand, can be quickly and conveniently administeredto many learners at the same time. They are also easy to score, and thescoring can often be done automatically. Proponents of indirect assess-ment argue that, if a high correlation can be shown between an indirecttest and communicative performance, the indirect measure is justified. In arguing for direct, performance-based assessment, Norris et al.(1998: 15) point out that the value of such an approach lies in the factthat: . . . it measures students’ abilities to respond to real-life language tasks. In other words, unlike other types of tests, performance assessments can be used to approximate the conditions of a real task in a real-life situation. As a result, performance assessments have value in that their scores can be used to predict students’ abil- ities in future real-world situations unlike other tests where scores are only very indirect predictors of ability to perform a real-life language task. We suggest that the potential for predicting or gen- eralizing to future, real-world language use is one of the key con- tributions that performance assessment might make as an alternative form of language assessment.Assessing proficiency versus achievementA major challenge for language researchers, including those involved inlanguage testing research, is that the qualities being researched or testedare abstract, invisible psychological qualities such as aptitude, motiva-tion and language proficiency. The only way that we can gather informa-tion on these phenomena is through observation or elicitation of somekind of performance on the part of the learner. Thus, we administer atest of general language proficiency, and then, based on the results, inferthat Student X is at an ‘upper-intermediate level of proficiency’, whileStudent Y is at a ‘false beginning level of proficiency’. This dilemma for testers, inferring invisible qualities from perfor-mance, has been captured by Ingram (1984: 10–11) as follows: . . . language occurs only in situations, and, if proficiency descrip- tions are related to particular situations, one could be accused of measuring only proficiency in specific situations, i.e. one would not be measuring general proficiency, but proficiency in specific situa- tions. On the other hand, language varies from situation to situa- tion; it varies according to who is using it, to whom, and about what subject . . . in other words, it would seem as though one cannot speak of general proficiency so much as proficiency in a language in this situation or that, in this register or that. Yet such a view would seem to be counter-intuitive. If we say that X speaks Chinese . . . we do not mean that X can only give a lecture on142
  • Key concepts in assessment engineering in Chinese. . . . Rather, when we say that someone can speak a language, we mean that that person can speak the language in the sorts of situations people commonly encounter. . . . General proficiency, then, refers to the ability to use the language in these everyday, non-specific situations.Brindley (1989) draws a distinction between the assessment of profi-ciency, as defined by Ingram, and the assessment of achievement. Whileproficiency is meant to be independent of any particular course of study,achievement refers to the mastery by the learner of specific curricularobjectives. Proficiency is typically assessed by rating students on a profi-ciency rating scale such as the ACTFL scale (see below). Attainment ofcurricular objectives can be carried out more informally using a widerange of instruments including teacher-constructed tests, self-ratingscales, learner self-reports, teacher or learner diaries, and videotaped oraudiotaped samples of learners’ work (Brindley 1989: 11). While the timing and purposes of these two forms of assessment usedifferent tools, and have different purposes, and while proficiency assess-ment is meant to be independent of a given syllabus, Brindley argues thatthe distinction is increasingly blurred. He points out that if proficiencyis defined in terms of people’s ability to use language for particular com-municative purposes then it ‘can be interpreted as the achievement of theparticular communicative objectives which the target group is likely tohave’ (p. 11). He goes on to point out that if this view is accepted, anend-of-course test derived from course objectives would appear to beserving the same purposes as a general proficiency test.Teaching versus testingAlmost any teaching task can be used for assessment purposes, and viceversa. The key difference is how the task fits into an instructional cycleand, crucially, what is done with the learner output from the task. Reflect Consider the following teaching task. How might it be modified to become a testing task? 143
  • Assessing task-based language teaching(Nelson et al., 2001: 72)144
  • Key concepts in assessmentTask-based assessmentTask-based tests require candidates to perform an activity which simu-lates a performance they will have to engage in outside the test situation.Performance-based assessment has been around for many years in otherfields. For example, in order to obtain a driving licence, it is necessary todemonstrate one’s ability by actually driving. Most people would thinkit odd if such a licence could be obtained simply by taking a pencil andpaper test. Norris et al. (1998) argue that task-based testing is part of a broaderapproach to assessment called performance assessment. There are threeessential characteristics of performance assessment. Firstly, it must bebased on tasks; secondly, the tasks should be as authentic as possible; andfinally, ‘success or failure in the outcome of the task, because they areperformances, must usually be rated by qualified judges.’ (p. 8). Norris et al. develop a set of test specifications for designing andgrading tasks. They identify four factors to be taken into considerationin grading tasks: code, cognitive complexity, communicative demand,and overlapping variables. An example of a task-based test item, alongwith an indication of how task difficulty might be adjusted, is providedbelow. Task: Reserving a table Prompt You live in the USA and would like to try out the fancy new Italian bistro Il Gondoliero tonight. Unfortunately, no one is free to accompany you to dinner (this can be changed to include a dinner partner). Look up the phone number of the restaurant in the phone book and call to reserve a table for one at an appropriate time this evening. You will have to speak with the answering machine as the staff do not come in until 5.00 p.m. code low Phone book layout, where to look (restaurants – could give option of white versus yellow pages, let them choose, white actually being more efficient, alphabetically); comprehension of the message on answering machine and when to begin talking; forms and necessary information for requesting a reservation (‘I would like to request a table for one . . .’); time vocabulary, day of the week, evening; sociocultural knowledge about when dinners typically take place in the United States (not 2 a.m.). ➳ 145
  • Assessing task-based language teaching high Could step up the code with difficult message, heavily accented speech. However, success is pretty generically dependent on exam- inee knowledge of forms and vocabulary for the situation (as well as cultural knowledge of the situation/task itself); could also add the element of a dinner party (dinner for two). cognitive complexity low Monologic speech with a machine and planning time make it a pretty easy task; ratings could be based to some extent on efficiency of execution. high Step up demand by introducing an interlocutor on the other end of the line when reserving; likewise, new information introduced through the message could increase demand (‘we will be closed this evening for the cook’s birthday, but will reopen tomorrow . . .;’ ‘if you are making a reservation, please indicate smoking perefer- ence’). communicative demand low One-way task with near total control in examinee; skimming phone book, calling restaurant, understanding machine, making reserva- tion; low pressure, plenty of time. high Varied time pressure introduced through message (‘you have twenty seconds to leave a message . . .’) or through situation (you are phoning from work, so you should make it quick); interlocutor makes it two-way.(Norris et al. 1998: 153)Norm-referenced versus criterion-referenced assessmentAnother important distinction in the assessment literature is thatbetween norm-referenced and criterion-referenced assessment. Both con-cepts have to do with how student test scores are interpreted (Bailey1998). In norm-referenced testing, students are compared to each other.Norm-referenced testing procedures are designed to disperse students’scores along a normal distribution. With this procedure, some students146
  • The purposes of assessmentwill do very well, the majority will do reasonably well, and some will doquite poorly. According to Brown (1989) and Brown and Hudson (2002:2), this form of assessment is appropriate for ‘assessing abstracted lan-guage ability traits’. They cite as examples of such traits overall ESL pro-ficiency, lecture listening ability, and academic reading comprehension.Criterion-referenced tests, on the other hand, compare students, notagainst each other, but on how well they do on a given assessment task.Potentially, all students might receive an ‘A’ grading on a criterion-referenced test. (Alternatively, they might all receive an ‘F’.) I believe that criterion-referenced testing is more appropriate thannorm-referenced testing in task-based language teaching, particularly ineducational systems where there is a concern to achieve a high degree ofharmony between teaching and testing. Criterion-referenced tests aredesigned to assess students’ mastery of course objectives. The fact thattask-based language teaching and criterion-referenced testing are bothconcerned with student performance reinforces this natural ‘fit’, asGlaser and Nitko (1971: 653) attest. A criterion-referenced test is one that is deliberately constructed to yield measurements that are directly interpretable in terms of spec- ified performance standards. Performance standards are generally specified by defining a class or domain of tasks that should be per- formed by the individual.Brown and Hudson (2002: 9) make a similar case for criterion-refer-enced testing because of the following characteristics that it can beexpected to exhibit: 1. Emphasis on teaching/testing matches. 2. Focus on instructional sensitivity. 3. Curricular relevance. 4. Absence of normal distribution restrictions. 5. No item discrimination restrictions.The purposes of assessmentThe reasons for carrying out assessment in the first place should have animportant bearing on how the assessment is carried out, when it iscarried out, by whom, and how the results will be reported. An assess-ment carried out for the purposes of placing students in groups will bevery different from one undertaken to provide students with a final gradeon their course. In an investigation carried out in an immigrant education program,Brindley (1989) asked teachers to rate a list of the functions of assessment 147
  • Assessing task-based language teachingaccording to their perceived importance. The results are set out in the fol-lowing table. Function of assessment Mean Standard Rank deviation Place learners in classes 4.296 1.059 1 Provide feedback on progress 3.888 1.221 4 Provide information on learners’ strengths and weaknesses for course planning 4.137 1.129 2 Provide information to funding authorities for accountability purposes 2.482 1.512 6 Encourage students to take responsibility for their own learning 3.957 1.268 3 Provide students with a record of their achievement 3.207 1.393 5Brindley (1989: 24) makes the following comment on these data: Placement of learners in classes was, interestingly, considered to be the most important function. Providing information on learners’ strengths and weaknesses for course-planning purposes and encouraging students to take responsibility for their own learning were also rated as important. Predictably, providing information for funding authorities for accountability purposes was ranked lowest, with a mean of 2.5. However, this by no means represented a uniform response, since 24 per cent of teachers ranked this func- tion as important or very important, as opposed to 41 per cent who considered it to be of no importance or of low importance. Reflection With reference to your own teaching situation, or a teaching situa- tion with which you are familiar, do your own ranking of the items in the above table. To what extent is your ranking similar to or different from those provided in the Brindley study? How would you account for any difference?148
  • Self-assessmentSelf-assessmentIn addition to assessment by the teacher, self- and peer assessment arealso becoming popular. This is particularly true in classrooms whereteachers wish to encourage learner autonomy and a focus on learningprocesses as well as learning outcomes. While self-assessment has beencriticized on the grounds that not all learners are accurate judges of theirown ability, this criticism misses the point to some extent, which is toinvolve learners in their own learning processes: The major purpose of self-assessment is to provide the opportunity for learners to develop an understanding of their own level of skill, knowledge or personal readiness for a task in relation to their goals. This level will often be compared with a previously deter- mined level and incorporated either into a summative report of gains made during a course or into a cumulative record of learner achievement. (Cram 1995: 282)The following self-assessment checklist has been taken from a step-by-step guide to project work. The points can be elaborated, as in 3b. ➳ 149
  • Assessing task-based language teaching(Ribe and Vidal 1993: 83–4) Reflect Consider how this checklist might be incorporated into your own teaching. What modifications would you want to make to it? How and when would you use it? What would you do with the results?150
  • Self-assessmentCram (1995) provides the following matrix of questions that studentscan address in assessing their language performance. It shows what a richarray of data can be collected, not just on overall language gains, but alsoon functional and affective gains.(Cram 1995: 291) 151
  • Assessing task-based language teaching Reflect Using Cram’s table as a guide, create your own self-assessment questionnaire.(Cram 1995: 292)152
  • Techniques for collecting assessment dataTechniques for collecting assessment dataThere is almost no limit to techniques and procedures for collectingassessment data in task-based language classrooms. In their book onclassroom-based evaluation, Genesee and Upshur (1996) introduceobservation, portfolios, conferences, journals, questionnaires and inter-views as particularly pertinent non-testing tools for evaluation. Brindley (1989: 169–71) lists the following, many of which could beadapted for task-based assessment:• observation followed by recycling of work• informal discussions with learners about their progress• teacher-constructed classroom tests• student self-assessment procedures• teacher journal (teacher writes descriptive account of what happens in class• learner journal• oral proficiency rating• feedback from others outside the classroom (e.g. employers, commu- nity organizations)• Standardized published tests.Performance scalesPerformance scales have been popular tools for direct assessment formany years. Because they are performance based and set out to describelearner behaviour, they are particularly suitable for task-based assess-ment. Early proficiency scales such as the ACTFL (American Council forTeaching Foreign Languages scale) provided descriptions such as the fol-lowing for assessing learner performance at different levels. The extracton p. 154 describes performance at intermediate level: ➳ 153
  • Assessing task-based language teaching Able to satisfy most survival needs and limited social demands. Shows some spontaneity in language production, but fluency is very uneven. Can initiate and sustain a general conversation but has little understand- ing of the social conventions of conversation. Developing flexibility in a range of circumstances beyond immediate sur- vival needs. Limited vocabulary range necessitates much hesitation and circumlocu- tion. The commoner tense forms occur but errors are frequent in formation and selection. Can use most question forms. While some word order is established, errors still occur in more complex patterns. Cannot sustain coherent structures in longer utterances or unfamiliar sit- uations. Ability to describe and give precise information is limited. Aware of basic cohesive features such as pronouns and verb inflections but many are unreliable, especially if less immediate in reference. Extended discourse is largely a series of short, discrete utterances. Articulation is comprehensible to native speakers used to dealing with foreigners, and can combine most phonemes with reasonable compre- hensibility, but still has difficulty in producing certain sounds in certain positions or in certain combinations, and speech will usually be laboured. Still has to repeat utterances frequently to be understood by the general public. Able to produce some narration in either past or future.(Savignon and Berns 1984: 228–9)The most recent, and certainly most comprehensive, set of frameworksfor assessing learner performance is provided by the Council of Europe(2001). Descriptive scales are provided for global language assessmentas well as for specific language skills and strategies. Appendix E providesan example of one of these scales.Production tasks: role plays, discussion tasks and simulationsAs already indicated, practically any pedagogical task can be used forassessing learner progress. The main difference lies in how the task is setup, and how learner language is recorded and analysed. You might wantto obtain actual samples of learner language, or, alternatively, to captureaspects of learner–learner interaction. If the latter is the case, then obser-vation schedules such as the one presented in the next section may suffice.154
  • Techniques for collecting assessment data In selecting language production tasks, it is important to be clearabout the purpose, as well as the kind of language you want to elicit.Consider the following tasks.Example1(Richards et al. 1997: 76)Example 2(Nunan 2001: 53) 155
  • Assessing task-based language teachingWhile the role play and the simulation can both be used to assess learnerlanguage, they were initially designed for classroom instruction.Observation schedulesThe number of observation schedules is almost limitless. For an excel-lent collection of observation tasks, many of which are suitable for col-lecting assessment data in the task-based classroom, see Wajnryb (1992).The following checklist is intended to assess the ability of students tocontribute to small-group discussions in task-based conversation classes. Indicate the degree to which learners contribute to small-group discus- sions by circling the appropriate number. Key: 5 – outstanding 4 – above average 3 – average 2 – below average 1 – unsatisfactory The learner participates in discussions. 12345 The learner uses appropriate non-verbal signals. 12345 The learner’s contributions are relevant. 12345 The learner negotiates meaning. 12345 The learner conveys factual information. 12345 The learner gives personal opinions. 12345 The learner invites contributions from others. 12345 The learner agrees / disagrees appropriately. 12345 The learner changes topic appropriately. 12345In a learner-centred classroom, it is possible to get learners to generatetheir own checklists. I do this by showing students three videotapedgroup discussions, one of which is good, one of which is average, andone of which is mediocre. Students view the videotapes and rank orderthem from good to poor. They then work in groups to say why one per-formance was good, and why one was not so good. Based on their156
  • Techniques for collecting assessment datadiscussion, they are then led to articulate a set of criteria for good groupdiscussions. This is then used to evaluate their own performance. In thisway assessment becomes part of the learning process.Journals, diaries and learning logsJournals, diaries and learning logs can be excellent resources for collect-ing evidence of student learning. In addition to encouraging learners tobecome more reflective and self-directed, they can help to bring togetherteaching and assessment in mutually beneficial ways. I have used the following proforma successfully with intermediatelevel learners and above. Each week, the learners complete the sentencestarters, and, over the course of a semester, they have a concrete recordof their growth and development. Complete one diary sheet each weekThis week I studied .............................................This week I learned .............................................This week I used my English in these places ..........................................This week I spoke English with these people.....................................................This week I made these mistakes ..........................................................My difficulties are .....................................................I would like to know .................................................I would like help with .................................................My learning and practising plans for next week are ..............................The following table, which provides same learner entries from the begin-ning and end of a language program, illustrate how much sharper andmore perceptive one group of students became as a result of systemati-cally completing a guided journal over a semester. 157
  • Assessing task-based language teaching Probe At the At the end of the course beginning of the course This week I The nature of I read a journal article called studied: verbs. Geographic which is published in New Zealand. I have spent an hour in dis- cussion with my psychology classmates. This week I Some more The principles of morphology. How to learned: information use the self-access centre for learning about English English. in English lin- guistics lesson. This week I Tutorials. In the library, Knowles Building, K.K. used my English My German Leung Building. in these places: lesson. At home. Along the street near my home. This week I History lecturer, A foreigner – he asked me where is Lok spoke English classmates and Fu MTR station. with these tutor, linguistics The waiter in Mario restaurant. people: tutor. This week I Using incorrect I spent too much time watching TV made these words. while answering questions; I created a mistakes: word ‘gesturally’. My difficulties Lack of time. Understanding the theme of a topic or are: an article. Writing fluent English essays. I would like to How to improve The method that can improve both my know: my English. listening and speaking skills. I would like Dictionaries. Ensuring I would spend some time on help with: reading but not on other leisure activ- ities. Communicating with foreigners. Watching foreign films. Human resources that can improve my lan- guage ability. My learning To talk more. To speak up in class and use English to and practising ask about anything I don’t understand plans for next in any of my subjects. To try to under week are: stand by explaining to my schoolmates some topics of the essay before writing it.(Nunan 1996: 41)158
  • Techniques for collecting assessment dataDialogue journals provide a useful record of achievement, although theycan be time-consuming for the teacher to read and respond to. With dia-logue journals, the teacher reads and responds individually, in writing,to each student’s journal entries. Genesee and Upshur (1996: 123–4) provide the follow guidelines forusing dialogue journals.1. Students should have separate books for journal writing. Students with access to computers may want to keep electronic journals.2. Set aside regular times – at the end of class or at the beginning or end of the day – when students can write in their journals.3. Collect students’ journals on a regular basis and read them carefully before returning them. Reading journals is time-consuming, so it is important to find a method of keeping track of them that works for you.4. Writing journals is not easy in the beginning. Students will probably need some direction in order to know what you are looking for.5. Encourage students to write about their successes as well as their dif- ficulties and hardships. Similarly, encourage them to write about classroom activities and events that they found useful, effective and fun as well as those they found to be confusing, useless, uninteresting or frustrating.6. Be patient and allow students time to develop confidence in the process of sharing their personal impressions.7. Avoid the use of evaluative or judgmental comments to ensure stu- dents’ confidence and candor.8. Help students interpret their own feedback and decide on actions to take in response to it.PortfoliosPortfolios are different in kind from the other instruments discussed inthis section. They can contain a wide range of written (and also spoken)language data, and can incorporate all of the other instruments alreadydiscussed. According to Kemp and Toperoff (1998), student assessmentthrough portfolios should contain the following characteristics:• The assessment should be a joint endeavour between students and teachers• The portfolio should not consist of a random collection of samples. Rather, items should be carefully selected and justified.• Samples of work should show growth and development over time.• The criteria for selecting and assessing content must be clear to stu- dents from the outset. 159
  • Assessing task-based language teaching Nunan and Wong (2003) argue that portfolios should contain the fol-lowing:1. A self-introduction This provides an introduction and overview as well as a rationale from the author on the exhibits presented in the portfolio.2. Samples of both spoken and written language For completeness, the portfolio needs to contain samples of both spoken and written language.3. Evidence of growth and development The exhibits presented in the portfolio should provide clear evidence of growth and development on the part of the student.4. Evidence of reflective learning In many ways, this is the most important part of the portfolio. It gives the author an opportunity to set out his or her strengths (and weaknesses) as a language learner as well as a statement on what he or she gained from the process of con- structing the portfolio.Kemp and Toperoff (1998: 3–4) list the following advantages of a port-folio: • Has clear goals: these are decided on at the beginning of instruction and are clear to teacher and students alike. • Gives a profile of learner abilities. • Depth: [the portfolio] enables students to show quality work, which is done without pressure and time constraints, and with the help of resources, reference materials and collaboration with others. • Breadth: a wide range of skills can be demonstrated. • Growth: it shows efforts to improve and develop, and demon- strates progress over time. • Assesses a variety of skills: written as well as oral and graphic products can easily be included. • Develops awareness of own learning: students have to reflect on their own progress and the quality of their work in relation to known goals. • Caters to individual differences and enhances independent learning: since it is open-ended, students can show work on their own level. Since there is a choice, it caters to different learning styles and allows expression of different strengths. • Develops social skills: students are also assessed on work done together, in pairs or groups, on projects and assignments. • Develops independent and active learners: students must select and justify portfolio choices; monitor progress and set learning goals.These points have in common that they all point to the fact that portfo-lios provide direct indicators of growth and that they integrate assess-160
  • Criteria for assessing learner performancement with other aspects of the learning process. In particular, as they arebased on the outcomes of classroom work, there is no disjunctionbetween the implemented and the assessed curriculum (Nunan 1988,1999a) as is often the case with indirect tests.Criteria for assessing learner performanceAccuracy, fluency and complexityIn Chapter 4, we looked at the work of Skehan (1998) and Skehan andFoster (1999), who proposed three key variables for assessing learnerperformance: accuracy, complexity and fluency. These researchers foundthat systematically manipulating the characteristics of tasks resulted indifferent levels of accuracy, complexity and fluency. The five task char-acteristics that they looked at were familiarity of the information in thetask, whether the task involved a monologue or a dialogue, the degreeof structure to the task, the complexity of the task outcome, and theextent to which speakers were required to transform language andcontent as they spoke. The effects of these characteristics on complexity,accuracy and fluency are summarized in the following table. Task characteristic Accuracy Complexity Fluency Familiarity of No effect No effect Slightly information greater Dialogic versus Greater Slightly greater Lower monologic task Degree of structure No effect No effect Greater Complexity of No effect Greater No effect outcome Transformation No effect Planned condition No effect Generates greater complexityThis research has significant implications for task-based testing. AsSkehan (2001: 182) points out: If candidate performances are compared after having been elicited through the use of different tasks, the performances themselves may be very difficult to relate to one another. Different candidates, in other words, might be disadvantaged by the particular task that they might have taken as part of their test, and so their perfor- mance may not be directly comparable to the other candidates’. 161
  • Assessing task-based language teachingObjectives-based criteriaThe following checklist was developed to assess a task-based writingprogram. Here, the criteria are taken directly from the course objectives.Students are assessed on their first and final drafts using the same crite-ria, and are thus able to see where they have improved and where theyhave not. CRITERIA First draft Final draft 1. The opening paragraph 0/1/2/3/4/5 0/1/2/3/4/5 contains a clear thesis statement. 2. The opening paragraph creates 0/1/2/3/4/5 0/1/2/3/4/5 interest and/or gives context and/or outlines direction. 3. The central argument is 0/1/2/3/4/5 0/1/2/3/4/5 supported with appropriate evidence and examples. 4. Paragraphs are developed 0/1/2/3/4/5 0/1/2/3/4/5 appropriately in terms of cohesion and topicalization. 5. Paragraphs are coherent in 0/1/2/3/4/5 0/1/2/3/4/5 terms of functional and propositional development. 6. The essay is written in an 0/1/2/3/4/5 0/1/2/3/4/5 appropriate academic style. 7. Citation and biliographical 0/1/2/3/4/5 0/1/2/3/4/5 conventions are adhered to. 8. The concluding paragraph 0/1/2/3/4/5 0/1/2/3/4/5 makes an observation and/or a prediction and/or a recommendation. 9. The student is able to para- 0/1/2/3/4/5 0/1/2/3/4/5 phrase appropriately. 10. The essay is adequately 0/1/2/3/4/5 0/1/2/3/4/5 proofed and edited, and is accurate in terms of grammar, spelling and punctuation.162
  • Criteria for assessing learner performance Reflect Consider the following assessment criteria. In what ways do you think that the criteria are problematic?In the following assessment, you will need to carry out a series of tasks.In some of these tasks you are required to write and speak.Your writing will be assessed on the following: Content The content needs to be relevant and sufficient: • Relevant means the content is meaningful to the • topic, and • Sufficient means that there is enough content (i.e. not too little and not too much). Organization Content / Ideas should be presented logically and grouped together or separated in meaningful ways. Language • You need to make use of a range of grammatical • and sentence structures accurately. • You need to use a variety of vocabulary and expres- • sions accurately. • Your punctuation will be assessed. • Your spelling needs to be accurate. Task You need to follow the task requirements. For Requirements example, a task requirement may limit your writing to 100 words. Therefore read and follow directions care- fully. Leave enough time to proofread your writing.Lewkowicz and Nunan (2004)While it is good that the criteria by which their performance will bejudged is made explicit to the learners, the descriptors themselves areproblematic. Like most performance-based criteria, the descriptors arerelatively vague and imprecise. It is doubtful whether statements such as‘Sufficient means that there is enough content (i.e. not too little and nottoo much)’ are likely to be very useful to learners. Again, what does ‘arange of’ and ‘a variety of’ look like in practice? 163
  • Assessing task-based language teachingConclusionThe purpose of this chapter was to look at aspects of assessment that arepertinent to task-based language teaching. I began with an explorationof key issues in second language assessment, and related these specificallyto the context of TBLT. I then looked at practical tools and techniquesfor assessment including performance scales, production tasks, observa-tion schedules, journals and portfolios. The final part of the chapterexamined criteria for assessing learner performance. I argued that, despite the diverse contexts and situations in whichTBLT is carried out, the assessment of learning outcomes should always:• involve the direct assessment of student performance• be criterion-referenced• focus on the attainment of specific objectives rather than trying to assess general proficiency• be formative in nature.ReferencesBailey, K. 1998. Learning about Language Assessment: Dilemmas, decisions and Directions. Boston MA: Heinle / Thomson.Baker, D. 1990. A Guide to Language Testing. London: Edward Arnold.Brindley, G. 1989. Assessing Achievement in the Learner-Centred Curriculum. Sydney: National Centre for English Language Teaching and Research.Brown, J. D. 1989. Improving ESL placement tests using two perspectives. TESOL Quarterly, 23, 65–83.Brown, J. D. and T. Hudson. 2002. Criterion-Referenced Language Testing. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Council of Europe. 2001. Common European Framework of Reference for Language: Learning, teaching, assessment. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Cram, B. 1995. Self-assessment: from theory to practice. In G. Brindley (ed.) Language Assessment in Action. Sydney: National Centre for English Language Teaching and Research.Education Department. 2001. Assessment Tasks: Set A. Hong Kong: Education Department.Genesee, F. and J. Upshur. 1996. Classroom-Based Evaluation in Second Language Education. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Glaser, R. and A. J. Nitko. 1971. Measure in learning and instruction. In R. L. Thorndyke (ed.) Educational Measurement. Second edition. Washington DC: American Council on Education.Gronlund, N. 1981. Measurement and Evaluation in Education. New York: Macmillan.164
  • ReferencesIngram, D. 1984. Australian Second Language Proficiency Ratings. Canberra: Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs.Kemp, J. and D. Toperoff. 1998. Guidelines for portfolio assessment in teaching English. Retrieved 25 September 2002 from http://www.etni.org.il/minis- try/portfolio/default.htmlLewkowicz, J. and D. Nunan. 2004. Task-based Assessment for Learning. Hong Kong: Hong Kong Education and Manpower Bureau.Nelson, J. A., K. Chan and A. Swan. 2001. Longman Express Book 1A. Hong Kong: Pearson Education North Asia Limited.Norris, J., J. D. Brown, T. Hudson and J. Yoshioka. 1998. Designing Second Language Performance Assessments. Honolulu HI: University of Hawaii.Nunan, D. 1988. The Learner-Centred Curriculum. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Nunan, D. 1996. Learner strategy training in the classroom: an action research study. TESOL Journal, 6, 1, 35–41.Nunan, D. 1999a. Second Language Teaching and Learning. Boston: Heinle.Nunan, D. 1999b. Go For It: Level 2. Test and games package. Boston: Heinle.Nunan, D. 2001. Expressions: Meaningful English communication. Student book 3. Boston MA.: Heinle / Thomson.Nunan, D. and L. Wong. 2003. The e-portfolio as an alternative assessment instrument. Paper presented at the 5th International CULI Conference, Bangkok, Thailand, December 2003.Ribe, R. and N. Vidal. 1993. Project Work Step by Step. 1993. Oxford: Heinemann International.Richards, J., J. Hull and S. Proctor. 1997. New Interchange: Student book 1. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Robinson, P. and S. Ross. 1996. The development of task-based assessment in English for academic purposes programs. Applied Linguistics, 17, 4, 455–76.Savignon, S. and M. Berns (eds). 1984. Initiatives in Communicative Language Teaching. Reading Mass.: Addison-Wesley.Skehan, P. 1998. A Cognitive Approach to Language Learning. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Skehan, P. 2001. Tasks and language performance assessment. In M. Bygate, P. Skehan and M. Swain (eds) 2001. Researching Pedagogic Tasks: Second language learning, teaching and testing. London: Longman.Skehan, P. and P. Foster. 1999. The influence of task structure and processing conditions on narrative retellings. Language Learning, 49, 1, 93–120.Wajnryb, R. 1992. Classroom Observation Tasks. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Willis and Willis. 2001. Task-based language learning. In R. Carter and D. Nunan (eds) The Cambridge Guide to Teaching English for Speakers of Other Languages. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 165
  • 8 Tasks and teacher developmentIntroduction and overviewIn this final chapter of the book, I want to look at tasks and teacherdevelopment. In the first part of the chapter, I will describe a workshopcase study where teachers explore the development, application andfunctioning of tasks in their own professional contexts and situations.The workshop describes ways in which teachers might be encouraged tothink more systematically about tasks, and also – as it is a task-basedworkshop – demonstrates how tasks might be used as the basis forteacher development programs. In the second half of the chapter, I will examine how to evaluate andcreate your own tasks. My checklist for evaluating a task draws on inputfrom throughout the book, and should therefore serve as a summary ofthe salient points introduced in earlier chapters. The checklist can alsobe used as a tool for creating and developing tasks.The self-directed teacherAn important trend in language teacher development in recent years hasbeen a move away from the teacher as passive recipient and implementerof other people’s syllabuses and methods, towards the idea of the teacheras an active creator of his or her own materials, classroom activities andassessment procedures (Nunan and Lamb 1996). Even in systems whichhave clearly articulated syllabuses and curriculum guidelines, there isscope for teachers to adapt and modify the syllabuses and materials withwhich they work. A major aim of this present book, with its points forreflection and analysis, has been to encourage a more self-directedapproach on the part of teachers. Bailey, Curtis and Nunan (2001: 6–7) suggest that there are fivereasons why teachers should engage in, and take control of, their own,ongoing professional development:• to acquire new knowledge and skills• to cope with, and keep up with, the pace of change166
  • The self-directed teacher• to increase one’s professionalism, status, and even, possibly, income• to empower oneself through increasing one’s knowledge base• to combat negativity and burnout.Related to the notion of the self-directed teacher has been a break withthe ‘method’ concept. For many years language teaching has been at themercy of a number of competing methods. Some of these, such asSuggestopedia, the Silent Way and Community Language Learning, havebeen rather exotic; others, such as audiolingualism, have been more con-servative. (For a comprehensive analysis of a range of the more promi-nent methods, see Richards and Rodgers 1986.) Despite their diversity,these competing methods have a number of things in common. One ofthese is the belief that somewhere out there is the ‘one best method’, thatis the method that will work for every conceivable learner in every con-ceivable context and learning situation. The methods also claim legiti-macy in terms of psycholinguistic and psychological learning theory andpractice. Thus audiolingualism draws its theoretical rationale frombehaviourism, the Total Physical Response was based on selective ‘find-ings’ from first language acquisition, and Community Language Learningdrew on certain tenets of humanistic psychology. Richards (1987b) points out that the ‘methods’ all share something else: . . . common to all of them is a set of prescriptions as to what teachers and learners should do in the language classroom. There are prescriptions for the teacher as to what material should be pre- sented, when it should be taught and how, and prescriptions for learners as to what approach they should take towards the teach- ing materials and classroom activities. (Richards 1987b: 12) Reflect Have you every used one of the methods described above? What was the experience? What are the pros and cons of having a set of ‘prescriptions for practice’? Rather than importing ideas from elsewhere, I suggest that it is pref-erable to identify what works and what does not work through the directstudy of the classroom itself. As it is teachers who are the crucial vari-able in the teaching situation, it is important that teachers should studywhat goes on in their own classroom. Self-analysis and evaluation willcertainly be characteristics of the self-directed teacher. In Chapter 1 we saw that the concept of ‘task’ seemed to be a partic-ularly real one for teachers. Over twenty years ago, in a major study of 167
  • Tasks and teacher developmentteachers at work, Swaffar et al. (1982) found that teachers tended to plantheir work around tasks rather than methods. They concluded that: Methodological labels assigned to teaching activities are, in them- selves, not informative, because they refer to a pool of classroom practices which are universally used. The differences among major methodologies are to be found in the ordered hierarchy, the prior- ities assigned to tasks. Not what classroom activity is used, but when and how form the crux of the matter in distinguishing methodological practice. (Swaffar et al. 1982: 31)In general education, Shavelson and Stern come to the conclusion, that: Most teachers are trained to plan instruction by (a) specifying (behavioural) objectives, (b) specifying students’ entry behaviour, (c) selecting and sequencing learning behaviours so as to move learners from entry behaviours to objectives and (d) evaluating the outcomes of instruction in order to improve planning. While this prescriptive model of planning may be one of the most consis- tently taught features of the curriculum of teacher education pro- grams, the model is consistently not used in teachers’ planning in schools. (Shavelson and Stern 1981: 477)This mismatch between what teachers are taught to do and what theyactually do arises, according to Shavelson and Stern, because once insidethe classroom the teacher must come up with a constant flow of activ-ities or face behavioural problems. Activities (or tasks as I call them)rather than the prescriptive ends–means model are the major focus of theteacher’s planning efforts. The next section is a case study designed to demonstrate what task-focussed teacher education looks like. Teachers are introduced to thenotion of ‘task’ as a basic tool for program planning and evaluation.An in-service workshopThis workshop was originally devised as the first in a series on languagecurriculum design. The concept of ‘task’ was selected for the initialworkshop, as experience has shown that it is the one curriculumelement which is most familiar and accessible to classroom teachers. Inaddition, as Candlin and Murphy (1987) have pointed out, tasksembody a curriculum in miniature. It was therefore felt that a workshopon tasks would provide a ‘user-friendly’ introduction to wider curricu-lum issues.168
  • An in-service workshopStep 1: Pre-workshop taskTeaches are asked in advance of the workshop to provide a detaileddescription of a task which works particularly well for them. They areasked to provide information on the target audience for the task, thegoal(s), activities, learner roles and groupings.Step 2: The ‘good’ language learning taskThe first workshop activity is designed to get participants to identifythose characteristics which they feel the ‘good’ language task shouldpossess. To this end, they are asked to rate a series of statements from 0to 4 according to whether these statements were characteristic of the‘good’ task. The statements were taken from a variety of sources (someof which you will recognize from preceding chapters) and are set outbelow. Questionnaire on the ‘good’ learning task What do you believe? Circle the appropriate number according to the following scale: 0 – this is not a characteristic of a good task 1 – this characteristic may be present, but is optional 2 – this characteristic is reasonably important 3 – this characteristic is extremely important 4 – this characteristic is essential Good learning tasks should: 1. enable learners to manipulate and practise specific 0/1/2/3/4 features of language 2. allow learners to rehearse, in class, communicative skills 0/1/2/3/4 they will need in the real world 3. activate psychological/psycholinguistic processes of 0/1/2/3/4 learning 4. be suitable for mixed ability groups 0/1/2/3/4 5. involve learners in solving a problem, coming to a conclusion 0/1/2/3/4 6. be based on authentic or naturalistic source materials 0/1/2/3/4 7. involve learners in sharing information 0/1/2/3/4 8. require the use of more than one macroskill 0/1/2/3/4 9. allow learners to think and talk about language and 0/1/2/3/4 learning 10. promote skills in learning-how-to-learn 0/1/2/3/4 11. have clear objectives stating what learners will be able to 0/1/2/3/4 do as a result of taking part in the task ➳ 169
  • Tasks and teacher development 12. utilize the community as a resource 0/1/2/3/4 13. give learners a choice in what they do and the order in 0/1/2/3/4 which they do it 14. involve learners in risk-taking 0/1/2/3/4 15. require learners to rehearse, rewrite and polish initial 0/1/2/3/4 efforts 16. enable learners to share in the planning and develop- 0/1/2/3/4 ment of the task 17. have built into them a means of evaluating the success or 0/1/2/3/4 otherwise of the taskStep 3: Selecting essential characteristicsHaving completed the questionnaire on their own, participants thenwork in pairs to select the five characteristics which they consider to beessential to a good task. This step involves considerable negotiation forthose participants who disagree with their partner (and there is usuallysome disagreement amongst most groups). When disagreements arise,participants are asked to consider why they disagree, to provide evidencefor their views, and to identify whether this evidence is based on fact,experience or opinion.Step 4: Task analysisOnce participants have established their criteria, they are given copies ofthe tasks sent in by participants prior to the workshop. These are pre-sented in a way that makes it impossible for the authors to be identified.They are asked to rate each task from 0 to 3 according to the extent towhich they embody each of the criteria of a good task that the partici-pants themselves have nominated. The scale they are asked to use is asfollows:0 this task does not reflect the criteria at all1 this task slightly reflects the criteria2 this task gives the criteria quite a lot of prominence3 this task gives the criteria a great deal of prominenceThis step has to be handled with some care. The principal aim of theexercise is not to criticize the tasks but to encourage participants toevaluate the criteria they have selected against the sorts of tasks theyhave originally provided. At the end of the workshop, participants veryoften state that they have given low ratings to their own tasks, and thatthe exercise has prompted them to review their approach to task selec-tion.170
  • An in-service workshopStep 5: Criteria for determining task difficultyStep 5 is devoted to the issue of task difficulty. The following sets of cri-teria, from a variety of sources, are provided to participants who wantto use them. They are asked to discuss these and come up with their ownlist of criteria for determining task difficulty. Factors to be taken into consideration in determining task difficultyBrindley (1987) considers that learner, task and text factors interact todetermine task difficulty:Easier More difficultLearneris confident about task is not confidentis motivated to carry out task is not motivatedhas necessary prior learning no prior experiences experiencescan learn at pace required cannot learn at required pacehas necessary language skills does not have language skillshas relevant cultural knowledge no relevant cultural knowledgeTasklow cognitive complexity cognitively complexhas few steps has many stepsplenty of context provided no contextplenty of help available no help availabledoes not require grammatical grammatical accuracy required accuracyhas as much time as necessary has little timeTextis short, not dense (few facts) is long and dense (many facts)clear presentation presentation not clearplenty of contextual clues few contextual cluesfamiliar, everyday content unfamiliar content ➳ 171
  • Tasks and teacher developmentBrown and Yule (1983): focus on how factors related to the speaker,listener, content, support and purpose will affect task difficulty:Easier More difficultone speaker many speakersinteresting/involving boring/non-involvingsimple syntax complex syntaxspecific vocabulary generalized vocabularyfamiliar content unfamiliar contentnarratives/instructions argument/explanation/opiniontemporal sequence non-temporal sequencecontextual support no contextual supportvisual aids present visual aids absentlearner involved as a participant learner as observerNunan (1985) sees difficulty as determined by the type of learnerresponse required: Comprehension Production InteractionEasier Listen/read, no Listen/read and Listen/read, response repeat/copy rehearse Listen/read, non- Listen/read, Listen/read, verbal response carry out drill role play Listen/read, Listen/read, Listen/read, solveMore verbal response respond problem/comedifficult meaningfully to conclusionAnderson and Lynch (1988) see difficulty as determined by informationsequence, topic familiarity, explicitness, non-verbal support and itemcorrespondence.Easier More difficultinformation presented in sequence information out of sequencetopic is familiar topic is unfamiliargraphic/non-verbal support present graphic support absent item correspondence: blank – repetition – synonym – compatible – ambiguous – contradictory172
  • Evaluating tasksStep 6: Applying difficulty criteriaIn the final step, participants are given sets of sample tasks and are askedto rank these from the easiest to the most difficult according to the cri-teria they selected in Step 5. Reflect Do your own self-directed mini-workshop. Select a task that works well for you and work through the various steps set out above.Evaluating tasksOne of the most obvious ways of applying the information presented inthe preceding chapters is in task evaluation. This involves adopting amore critical attitude towards the classroom tasks that form the basis ofone’s teaching program. In his paper on task design, Candlin (1987) suggests that task evalua-tion should cover three broad areas. These are ‘problematicity’, ‘imple-mentability’ and ‘combinability’. ‘Problematicity’ refers to the extent towhich a given task reveals variations in learners’ abilities and knowledge,the extent to which it is diagnostic or explanatory, whether it pro-vides monitoring and feedback, and whether it can be used as a basisfor future action. ‘Implementability’ involves a consideration of theresources required, the organizational and management complexity, andthe adaptability of the task. Finally ‘combinability’ requires us to con-sider the extent to which the task can be sequenced and integrated withother tasks. The following checklist contains a set of questions for evaluatingtasks. These reflect the various issues and concepts already covered in thepreceding chapters. The list of questions can be used in a variety of ways.You will not necessarily need or want to answer all the questions in taskevaluation. I would suggest that at particular times (when, for example,you are trying out a new task for the first time, or using a task which isfamiliar to you but not to your students) you record the lesson in whichthe task is introduced on audio- or videotape and use this to aid yourreflection as you evaluate the task. An alternative would be to invite acolleague to observe your class and do the evaluation with you. 173
  • Tasks and teacher development Checklist for evaluating tasksGoals and rationale– To what extent is the goal or goals of the task obvious a) to you, b) to your students?– Is the task appropriate to the learners’ proficiency level?– To what extent does the task reflect a real-world or pedagogic ratio- nale? Is this appropriate?– Does the task encourage learners to apply classroom learning to the real world?– What beliefs about the nature of language and learning are inherent in the task?– Is the task likely to be interesting and motivating to the students?Input– What form does the input take?– Is it authentic?– If not, is it appropriate to the goal(s) of the task?Procedures– Are the procedures appropriate to the goal(s) of the task?– If not, can they be modified to make them more appropriate?– Is the task designed to stimulate students to use bottom–up or top–down processing skills?– Is there an information gap or problem which might prompt a nego- tiation of meaning?– Are the procedures appropriate to the input data?– Are the procedures designed in a way which will allow learners to communicate and cooperate in groups?– Is there a learning strategies dimension, and is this made explicit to the learners?– Is there a focus on form aspect and, if so, how is this realized?Roles and settings– What learner and teacher roles are inherent in the task?– Are they appropriate?– What levels of complexity are there in the classroom organization implicit in the task?– Is the setting confined to the classroom?Implementation– Does the task actually engage the learners’ interest?– Do the procedures prompt genuine communicative interaction among students?– To what extent are learners encouraged to negotiate meaning?174
  • Creating tasks– Does anything unexpected occur as the task is being carried out?– What type of language is actually stimulated by the task?– Is this different from what might have been predicted?Grading– Is the task at the appropriate level of difficulty for the students?– If not, is there any way in which the task might be modified in order to make it either easier or more challenging?– Is the task structured so that it can be undertaken at different levels of difficulty?Integration– What are the principles upon which tasks are sequenced?– Do tasks exhibit the ‘task continuity’ principle?– Are a range of macroskills integrated into the sequence of tasks?– If not, can you think of ways in which they might be integrated?– At the level of the unit or lesson, are communicative tasks integrated with other activities and exercises designed to provide learners with mastery of the linguistic system?– If not, are there ways in which such activities might be introduced?– Do tasks incorporate exercises in learning-how-to-learn?– If not, are there ways in which such exercises might be introduced?Assessment and evaluation– What means exist for the teacher to determine how successfully the learners have performed?– Does the task have built into it some means whereby learners might judge how well they have performed?– Is the task realistic in terms of the resources and teacher-expertise it demands?Creating tasksIn addition to its use as a tool for evaluating tasks that may have beencreated by others, the checklist can also be used to guide you in creatingand critiquing your own tasks. As we have already seen, the starting point for task design should bethe goals and objectives which are set out in the syllabus or curriculumguidelines that underpin your teaching program. You may need toaugment or modify these if they are not written in a form which can bedirectly translated into communicative tasks. Objectives may, forinstance, be set out as checklists of grammatical items, such as the fol-lowing: 175
  • Tasks and teacher development At the end of the course learners will be able to use the present con- tinuous tense to describe actions in progress. Most syllabuses and curriculum guidelines will provide some sort ofrationale. This may be a broad statement of intent, such as: The course should develop reading and writing skills for tertiary study.or The focus will be on the survival skills needed by learners in the target culture.Even these very general statements provide a point of departure for taskdesign. The next step is selecting or creating input for learners to work with.In the preceding chapters, we have seen that the use of authentic input isa central characteristic of task-based language teaching. You will need toconsider the extent to which it is possible for you to use authentic data.Your decision will depend on such factors as the attitude of your learn-ers and the availability of resources. Many low-level learners are trau-matized when first exposed to authentic samples of language, and haveto be taught that it is not necessary to understand every word for com-munication to be successful. Teachers working in a foreign languagecontext will be faced with greater difficulty in obtaining authenticsamples of input than second language teachers, particularly in obtain-ing aural input data, although the media and the Internet greatly facili-tate matters these days. Where possible, it is desirable to build up a ‘bank’ of data. These canbe classified and filed under topics or themes, and provide a ready-maderesource to be drawn on when designing tasks. As indicated earlier, oneshould work from the data to the teaching/learning objectives, ratherthan the other way round. In other words, it is better to derive commu-nicative activities and other exercises, such as grammatical manipulationexercises, from the input, rather than, say, deciding to teach a particularitem, and then creating a text to exemplify the target feature or item. When designing activities, you need to decide whether you want learn-ers to rehearse in class tasks which they will, potentially at least, want tocarry out in the real world. If the tasks have a pedagogic rationale, youneed to be clear what this is. You also need to consider the role that bothyou and the learners will adopt in carrying out the task and assesswhether these roles are appropriate to the given group. Settings andlearner configurations also need to be considered. Getting learners in andout of groups of different sizes quickly and efficiently so that time on thetask is maximized is an important classroom management skill. When monitoring the task, you will want to keep a close check on theactual language which is generated, particularly if it is a focused task.This will often differ from what had been predicted. It is a good idea to176
  • Postscriptrecord teacher-fronted and small group interactions from time to timeand use these to review and evaluate the task.ConclusionIn this final chapter, I have broadened the focus to show how a task-based approach can be used in teacher development. Tasks can also beused as a point of departure for small-scale classroom research projectsby teachers themselves. Such projects should lead teachers to see the rel-evance of the theory for the practical concerns of the classroom.PostscriptIn language teaching, as in general education, there has been a moveaway from a top–down approach to the planning, implementation andevaluation of teaching programs. The top-down approach is character-ized by curriculum plans, syllabus outlines and methodological proce-dures which are designed by ‘experts’ and delivered as a package to theclassroom practitioner. In-service and professional development pro-grams are principally designed to train teachers how to use these exter-nally developed syllabuses, materials and methods. As I mentionedbriefly earlier in this chapter, in language teaching, the top–downapproach resulted in a spate of methods developed during the 1960s andearly 1970s. Alongside audiolingualism and cognitive code learning,there were the more exotic methods such as Total Physical Response(Asher 1977), Community Language Learning (Curran 1976),Suggestopedia (the most accessible introduction to the principles ofSuggestopedia is Ostrander and Schroeder 1981) and, more recently, the‘Natural’ Approach (Krashen and Terrell 1983). These methods aredescribed and criticized in Richards and Rodgers (1986). (A table sum-marizing these various approaches and derived from Richards andRodgers is included as Appendix A.) Most of these methods have onething in common: they assume that there is one best way of learning asecond or foreign language, and they provide a set of principles and pro-cedures, which, it is believed, if followed properly by the classroom prac-titioner, will result in learning. With the recent break from the ‘method’ concept has come the devel-opment of more bottom–up approaches to language teaching. The cur-riculum is being rediscovered, not as a set of prescriptive edicts, but asthe documentation and systematization of classroom practice (Nunan1988a). Curriculum designers are becoming concerned with identifying 177
  • Tasks and teacher developmentprinciples of effective teaching from within the classroom itself. This isreflected in the ongoing interest in classroom-oriented research (see, forexample, Bailey 1999). Another theme which has been reiterated in various guises in recentyears is the need in pre- and in-service teacher education programs for abalance between theory and practice. It is also important for participantsto appreciate the complementary nature of theory and practice. This isunlikely to be achieved in teacher education programs in which the theo-retical and practical components are kept apart. Bottom-up and class-room-oriented approaches to curriculum development, on the otherhand, are particularly amenable to achieving an appropriate balancebetween theory and practice. A major trend in language teaching in recent years has been the adop-tion of learner-centred approaches to curriculum development. Learner-centred approaches are characterized by the involvement of the learner,and the utilization of information about the learner in all aspects of thecurriculum process (Nunan 1988a: 6). Brundage and MacKeracher (1980) and Knowles (1983) argue for aclient-centred approach to adult learning on the grounds that adultsvalue their own experience as a resource for further learning, and thatthey learn best when they have a personal investment in the program andwhen the content is personally relevant. Given the trends and issues which I have just referred to, I would liketo propose the following principles for teacher development programs,particularly post-experience or in-service programmes. Here, teachersare looking for guidance in solving problems which confront them in theclassroom. Therefore, there must be explicit links between the content ofprofessional development programs and the classroom.1. Content and methodology should be perceived as being personally relevant;2. theory should be derived from practice;3. the approach should be bottom–up rather than top–down;4. teachers should be involved in the structuring of the professional development programme;5. content should, as far as possible, be derived from the teachers them- selves;6. desirable practices should be modelled in the professional develop- ment program;and last but not least, given the focus of this book, because they areparticularly salient for teachers and also because they provide a conven-ient point of entry into other areas of curriculum planning, implementa-tion and evaluation:178
  • References7. tasks should be given a prominent place in pre- and in-service profes- sional development programs designed to introduce participants to principles of curriculum design and development.One of the most effective ways of incorporating these principles intoteacher development programs is to use input from teachers themselves.We have seen one way in which this might work, although there aremany other variants. For example, one might give all workshop partici-pants some input several weeks in advance of the workshop and askthem to a) create a task based on the input; b) get their students to under-take the task; c) record them as they do so. The workshop would thenconsist of participants describing their tasks along the lines already sug-gested (i.e. in terms of goals, input, activities, learner and teacher rolesand evaluation). Following this, they could look at similarities and dif-ferences and make suggestions as to how and why these came about. Thecoordinator could then bring the workshop to a conclusion with asummary of the theory and principles underlying the discussions. Extending the principle of teacher input forming the basis of profes-sional development workshops, it is usually possible to get teachers toidentify some issue, problem or question which they would like to followup. Teachers would set up a small-scale investigation in their classroomand report back to the workshop group at a later date. In this way,teachers can be encouraged to adopt an action research orientation totheir work. Such an orientation allows theory to be integrated with prac-tice.ReferencesAnderson, A., and T. Lynch. 1988. Listening. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Asher, J. 1977. Learning Another Language Through Actions: the complete teacher’s guide book. Los Gatos Calif.: Sky Oaks Productions.Bailey, K. 1999. What have we learned from 25 years of classroom research? Plenary presentation, International TESOL Convention, New York, March 1999.Bailey, K., A. Curtis and D. Nunan. 2001. Pursuing Professional Development: the self as source. Boston MA: Heinle.Brindley, G. 1987. Factors affecting task difficulty. In D. Nunan (ed.) Guidelines for the Development of Curriculum Resources for the Adult Migrant Education Program. Adelaide: National Curriculum Resource Centre.Brown, G. and G. Yule. 1983. Teaching the Spoken Language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Brundage, D. H. and D. MacKeracher 1980. Adult Learning Principles and Their Application to Program Planning. Ontario: Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. 179
  • Tasks and teacher developmentCandlin, C. 1987. Language Learning Tasks. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice- Hall International.Chaudron, C. 1988. Second Language Classrooms: Research on teaching and learning. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Curran, C. 1976. Counselling-Learning in Second Languages. Apple River Ill.: Apple River Press.Knowles, M. 1983. The Adult Learner: a neglected species. Houston: Gulf Publishing Company.Krashen, S. and T. Terrell. 1983. The Natural Approach. Oxford: Pergamon Press.Nunan, D. 1985. Language Teaching Course Design: Trends and issues. Adelaide: National Curriculum Resource Centre.Nunan, D. 1988a. The Learner-Centred Curriculum. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Nunan, D. 1988b. Syllabus Design. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Nunan, D. and C. Lamb. 1996. The Self-Directed Teacher. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Ostrander, S. and L. Schroeder. 1981. Superlearning. London: Sphere Books.Ramani, E. 1987. Theorizing from the classroom. English Language Teaching Journal, 41, 1, 3–11.Richards, J. 1987. Beyond methods: alternative approaches to instructional design in language teaching. Prospect, 3, 1, 11–30.Richards, J. and T. Rodgers. 1986. Approaches and Methods in Language Teaching. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Seliger, H. and M. Long. 1983. Classroom-Oriented Research. Rowley Mass.: Newbury House.Shavelson, R. J. and P. Stern. 1981. Research on teachers’ pedagogical thoughts, judgements, decisions and behaviour. Review of Educational Research, 51, 4.Swaffar, J., K. Arens and M. Morgan. 1982. Teacher classroom practices: rede- fining method as task hierarchy. Modern Language Journal, 66, 1.van Lier, L. 1988. The Classroom and the Language Learner: Ethnography and second-language classroom research. London: Longman.180
  • Appendix A Approaches and methods – an overview 181
  • Theory of language Theory of learning Objectives SyllabusOral Situational Language TeachingLanguage is a set of Memorization and habit To teach a practical command A list of structures andstructures, related to formation. of the four basic skills. vocabulary gradedsituations. Automatic, accurate control according to grammatical of basic sentence patterns. difficulty. Oral before written mastery.AudiolingualLanguage is a system of rule- Habit formation; skills are Control of the structures of Graded syllabus ofgoverned structures learned more effectively if sound, form and order phonology, morphologyhierarchically arranged. oral precedes written; mastery over symbols of the and syntax. Contrastive analogy not analysis. language; goal is native- analysis. speaker mastery.CommunicativeLanguage is a system for the Activities involving real Objectives will reflect the Will include some/all of theexpression of meaning; communication; carrying out needs of the learner; they will following: structures,primary function–interaction meaningful tasks and using include functional skills as functions, notions, themes,and communication. language which is meaningful well as linguistic objectives. tasks. Ordering will be to the learner to promote guided by learner needs. learning.Total Physical ResponseBasically a structuralist, L2 learning is the same as L1 To teach oral proficiency to Sentence-based syllabusgrammar-based view of learning; comprehension produce learners who can with grammatical andlanguage. before production is communicate uninhibitedly lexical criteria being ‘imprinted’ through carrying and intelligibly with native primary, but focus on out commands (right brain speakers. meaning not form.
  • functioning); reduction of stress.The Silent WayEach language is composed Processes of learning a Near-native fluency, correct Basically structural lessonsof elements that give it a second language are pronunciation, basic practical planned aroundunique rhythm and spirit. fundamentally different from knowledge of the grammar of grammatical items andFunctional vocabulary and L1 learning. L2 learning is an the L2. Learner learns how to related vocabulary. Itemscore structure are a key to intellectual, cognitive process. learn a language. are introduced according tothe spirit of the language. Surrender to the music of the their grammatical language, silent awareness complexity. then active trial.Community Language LearningLanguage is more than a Learning involves the whole No specific objectives. Near- No set syllabus. Coursesystem for communication. person. It is a social process native mastery is the goal. progression is topic-based;It involves the whole person, of growth from childlike learners provide the topics.culture, educational, dependence to self-direction Syllabus emerges fromdevelopmental, and independence. learners’ intention and thecommunicative processes. teacher’s reformulations.The Natural ApproachThe essence of language is There are two ways of L2 Designed to give beginners Based on a selection ofmeaning. Vocabulary not language development: and intermediate learners communicative activitiesgrammar is the heart of ‘acquisition’ – a natural basic (oral/written) personal and topics derived fromlanguage. subconscious process, and and academic communicative learner needs. ‘learning’ – a conscious skills. process. Learning cannot lead to acquisition.
  • Theory of language Theory of learning Objectives SyllabusSuggestopediaRather conventional, Learning occurs through To deliver advanced Ten-unit courses consistingalthough memorization of suggestion, when learners are conversational competence of 1,200-word dialogueswhole meaningful texts is in a deeply relaxed state. quickly. Learners are required graded by vocabulary andrecommended. Baroque music is used to to master prodigious lists of grammar induce this state. vocabulary pairs, although the goal is understanding not memorization.Activity types Learner roles Teacher roles Roles of materialsOral Situational Language TeachingRepetition, substitution drills; To listen and repeat, respond Acts as a model in presenting Relies on textbook andavoid translation and to questions and commands; structures; orchestrates drill visual aids; textbookgrammatical explanation; learner has no control over practice; corrects errors, tests contains tightly organized,learners should never be content; later allowed to progress. structurally graded lessons.allowed to make a mistake. initiate statements and ask questions.AudiolingualDialogues and drills, Organisms that can be Teacher-dominated; central Primarily teacher oriented.repetition and memorization, directed by skilled training and active teacher provides Tapes, visuals and languagepattern practice. techniques to produce correct modes, controls direction and laboratory often used. responses. pace.CommunicativeEngage learners in Learner as negotiator and Facilitator of the Primary role of promotingcommunication, involving interactor who gives as well communication process; communicative language
  • processes such as information as takes. needs analyst counsellor; use; task-based materials;sharing, negotiation of process manager. authentic.meaning and interaction.Total Physical ResponseImperative drills to elicit Listener and performer; little Active and direct role as ‘the No basic text; materials andphysical actions. influence over the content of director of a stage play’ with media have an important learning. students as actors. role later. Initially voice, action and gestures are sufficient.The Silent WayLearner responses to Learning is a process of Teachers must a) teach, b) test Unique materials: colouredcommands, questions and personal growth. Learners and c) get out of the way; rods, colour-codedvisual cues. Activities are responsible for their own remain impassive. Resist pronunciation andencourage and shape oral learning and must develop temptation to model, remodel, vocabulary charts.responses without independence, autonomy and assist, direct exhort.grammatical explanation or responsibility.modelling by teacher.Community Language LearningCombination of innovative Learners are members of a Counselling/parental analogy. No textbook, which wouldand conventional. community. Learning is not Teacher provides a safe inhibit growth. MaterialsTranslation, group work, viewed as an individual environment in which are developed as courserecording, transcription, accomplishment, but students can learn and grow. progresses.reflection and observation, something that is achievedlistening, free conversation. collaboratively.
  • Activity types Learner roles Teacher roles Roles of materialsThe Natural ApproachActivities allowing Should not try and learn The teacher is the primary Materials come from realiacomprehensible input about language in the usual sense, source of comprehensible rather then textbooks.things in the here-and-now. but should try and lose input. Must create positive Primary aim is to promoteFocus on meaning not form. themselves in activities low-anxiety climate. Must comprehension and involving meaningful choose and orchestrate a rich communication. communication. mixture of classroom activities.SuggestopediaInitiatives, question and Must maintain a passive state To create situations in which Consists of texts, tapes,answer, role play, listening and allow the materials to the learner is most suggestible, classroom fixtures andexercises under deep work on them (rather than and present material in a way music. Texts should haverelaxation. vice versa). most likely to encourage force, literary quality and positive reception and interesting characters. retention. Must exude authority and confidence.
  • Appendix B A unit of work based on the six-step procedure presented in Chapter 2 187
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  • Appendix BSource: Nunan, D. 2001. Expressions: Student book 3. Boston MA: Heinle / Thomson.Pages 88–95.194
  • Appendix C A unit of work based on the task/exercise typology in Chapter 5 195
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  • Appendix CSource: Richards, J., J. Hull and S. Proctor. 1997. New Interchange: Student’s book 1.Cambridge. Cambridge University Press. Pages 92–97, page IC–20. 201
  • Appendix D Graded activities for the four macroskillsIn this appendix you will find sets of activities for the four macroskills, whichare graded into seven levels of difficulty. These may be useful in the devel-opment of your own learning tasks.ListeningLevel 1– distinguish between English and other languages– listen to short aural texts and indicate (e.g. by putting up hand) when core vocabulary items are heard– identify the number and gender of interlocutors– comprehend and carry out the following instructions: point to, touch, stand up, sit down, go to _____, pick up, put down– comprehend requests for personal details (name, age, address)– comprehend requests for the identification of people and things– listen to simple descriptions of common objects (e.g. those found in the classroom and/or immediate environment) and identify these non-ver- bally (e.g. by drawing a picture)– identify letters of the alphabet and numbers to fifty including ten/teen contrasts– listen to and identify the timeLevel 2– identify core vocabulary items when encountered in a variety of aural texts– comprehend and carry out a sequence of two to three instructions– comprehend requests for details about family and friends– comprehend requests for identification of people and things– listen to simple descriptions of actions and scenes and identify these non- verbally (e.g. by finding a picture, numbering pictures in the order in which they described)– given contextual/pictorial support, can comprehend simple descriptions– identify ordinal numbers 1–10– listen to and identify days of the week, months and dates202
  • Appendix DLevel 3– identify core vocabulary items when encountered in a variety of aural texts– comprehend and carry out a sequence of four to five instructions– develop factual discrimination skills by listening to a passage and iden- tifying true/false statements relating to the passage– comprehend requests for factual information relating to topic areas– listen to a short aural text and transform the information by presenting it in a different form (e.g. by completing a table or diagram)Level 4– identify core vocabulary items when encountered in a variety of aural texts– develop inferencing skills by listening to a passage and identifying true/false inferences relating to the passage– comprehend requests for factual and attitudinal information relating to topic areas– listen to a short aural text and transform the information by presenting it in a different form (e.g. by completing a table or diagram)– comprehend and carry out a linked set of instructions– grasp the gist of a short narrative– identify emotional state of speaker from tone and intonationLevel 5– identify core vocabulary items when encountered in a variety of aural texts– develop inferencing skills by listening to a passage and identifying true/false inferences relating to the passage– comprehend requests for factual and attitudinal information relating to topic areas– listen to a short aural text and transform the information by presenting it in a different form (e.g. by completing a table or diagram)Level 6– identify core vocabulary items when encountered in a variety of aural texts– develop inferencing skills by listening to a passage and suggesting an appropriate conclusion– comprehend requests for factual and attitudinal information relating to topic areas– listen to a short aural text and transform the information by presenting it in a different form (e.g. by completing a table or diagram)– comprehend a short narrative when events are reported out of sequence 203
  • Appendix DLevel 7– extract detailed information from a text– grasp the gist of an extended text– follow an extended set of instructions– differentiate between fact and opinion– identify the genre and register of a text– recognize differences in intonation– identify relationships between participants in aural interactions– identify the emotional tone of an utterance– comprehend the details of short conversations on unfamiliar topicsSpeaking and oral interactionLevel 1– name common objects– give personal details, such as name, age and address– memorize and recite songs and rhymes in chorus– take part in short, contextualized dialogues– give simple (single clause) descriptions of common objects– request goods and objects– make statements of ability about self and othersLevel 2– describe family and friends (e.g. refer to age, relationship, size, weight, hair and eye colouring)– recite songs and rhymes in chorus and individually– ask and make statements about the likes of self and others– spell out words from core vocabulary list, and say words when they are spelled out– answer questions / give details of simple descriptions following an aural presentation– request details about the family and friends of others using cue words– make short (one to two sentence) statements on familiar topics using cue words– talk about regularly occurring activities– compute quantities and money in English– tell the time in hours and half hoursLevel 3– answer questions / give details following an aural presentation– make short (three to four sentence) statements on familiar topics– following a model, make a series of linked statements about a picture, map, chart or diagram204
  • Appendix D– work in pairs / small groups to share information and solve a problem– tell the time using fractions of an hour– describe a short sequence of past events using sentence cues– make complete statements from sentence cues when given appropriate contextual support– make comparisons between physical objects and entities– use conversational formulae for greeting and leave-takingLevel 4– answer questions and give details of descriptions following an aural pres- entation– describe a picture related to a specific topic area– narrate a linked sequence of past events shown in a picture sequence or cartoon strip– work in groups to solve problems which require making inferences and establishing causality– give opinions about specified issues and topics– use conversational and discourse strategies e.g. to change subject, provide additional information, invite another person to speak– give a sequence of directions– make requests and offers– talk about future eventsLevel 5– give a short summary of the main points of an aural presentation– give a detailed description of a picture relating to a familiar scene– describe a simple process– describe a linked sequence of actions– work in groups to solve problems requiring the integration of informa- tion from a variety of aural and written sources– give opinions about specified issues and topics– use conversational and discourse strategies e.g. of holding the floor, dis- agreeing, qualifying what has been saidLevel 6– give a detailed summary of the main points and supporting details of an aural presentation– give a prepared oral presentation on a familiar topic– give a short aural presentation relating to information presented non- textually (e.g. as a chart, map, diagram or graph)– describe complex processes with the aid of a diagram– describe a sequence of events in a variety of tenses 205
  • Appendix D– work in groups to solve problems requiring the resolution of conflicting information– comprehend and convey messages by telephone– qualify one’s opinion through the use of modality– use appropriate non-verbal behaviourLevel 7– give an unprepared oral presentation on a familiar topic– use a range of conversational styles from formal to informal– work in groups to solve problems involving hypothesizing and relating to abstract topics– initiate and respond to questions of abstract topics– use a range of conversational and discourse strategiesReadingLevel 1– sight read all the words in the core vocabulary list when encountered in context– read the names of class members– read the written equivalent of numbers 1–60– read short contextualized lists, e.g. shopping lists– decode regular sound–symbol correspondences– read single-sentence descriptions of familiar objectsLevel 2– sight read all the words in the core vocabulary list when encountered in and out of context– read short (two to three sentence) passages on familiar topics and answer yes/no and true/false questions relating to factual details– read the written equivalent of numbers 1–100– read prices and quantities– decode consonant clusters– read sentences which have been mastered orallyLevel 3– read short (three to five sentence) passages and answer yes/no and wh- questions relating to factual detail– read short (three to five sentence) passages and identify correct inferen- tial statements relating to the passage– read and interpret information presented as a chart or timetable– dictate a story to the teacher and then read it206
  • Appendix DLevel 4– read two to three paragraph story on a familiar topic and select the main idea from a list of alternatives– arrange scrambled sentences and paragraphs into the correct order– develop dictionary skills (alphabetical order and indexes)– follow a linked series of written instructions– read a short passage and predict what will happen next by selecting from a list of alternatives– scan a three to five paragraph text for given key words– identify antecedents of anaphoric reference itemsLevel 5– read three to five paragraph text and state the main idea– scan a five to ten paragraph text for given key words– identify logical relationships marked by conjunctions in three to five par- agraph texts on familiar topics– scan large texts (e.g. dictionary, telephone book) for specific information– read a short story on a familiar topic and give a short oral summaryLevel 6– read a five to ten paragraph text on a familiar topic and state the main ideas– read a five to ten paragraph text and present the key information in a non-textual form (e.g. by completing a table or graph)– identify logical relationships marked by conjunctions in five to ten para- graph texts on unfamiliar topics– follow a narrative or description when the ideas and events are presented in sequence– differentiate between fact and opinionLevel 7– read a five to ten paragraph text on an unfamiliar topic and state the main ideas and supporting details– identify unmarked logical relationships in five to ten paragraph texts on unfamiliar topics– follow a narrative or description when the ideas and events are presented out of sequence– identify instances of bias in a written text– understand the underlying purpose/function of text– differentiate between relevant and irrelevant information 207
  • Appendix DWritingLevel 1– write letters of the alphabet in upper and lower case– write numbers 1–60– write own name and names of other students and family members– copy legibly words in the core vocabulary list– copy legibly short messages and lists (e.g. shopping lists)– complete a short contextualized description of a person or objectLevel 2– write numbers 1–100– use capital letters and full stops appropriately– write legibly and accurately words in the core vocabulary list– write short, familiar sentences when dictatedLevel 3– complete short contextualized description of a person or object– write short, familiar sentences when dictated– write words and clauses in legible cursive script– rewrite scrambled sentences as a coherent paragraphLevel 4– write short, personal note on a familiar topic to a friend (e.g. a postcard)– write short (one sentence) answers to comprehension questions– take a short (single paragraph) dictation from a familiar text– create a paragraph from individual sentences using cohesion to link sen- tencesLevel 5– write a short description of a familiar object or scene– write short (two to three sentence) answers to comprehension questions– write a single paragraph conclusion to a narrative– take a short (single paragraph) dictation from an unfamiliar text– develop fluency through free-writing activitiesLevel 6– write a summary in point form / précis of a short aural or written text– produce a text from data provided in non-text form (e.g. as a table, graph or chart)208
  • Appendix D– write a single paragraph conclusion to a passage presenting an argument– take a three to five paragraph dictation from a familiar textLevel 7– use appropriate punctuation conventions– write a short essay using paragraphs to indicate main information units– write quickly without pausing, erasing or correcting as part of the process of drafting or composing– use pre-writing strategies as a preparation for writing– use revision strategies to polish one’s initial efforts(This is adapted from an unpublished seven-level syllabus developed by mefor an ESL curriculum.) 209
  • Appendix EAppendix E Common reference levels: self-assessment gridSource: Council of Europe. 2001. Common European Framework of Reference forLanguages: Learning, teaching, assessement. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Pages 26–27.210 211
  • GlossaryAcquisition: The social and psychological processes through which an individ- ual develops an ability to communicate through language. A basic distinction is drawn between first and second language acquisition.Aesthetic macrofunction: The use of language for enjoyment and entertain- ment.Analytical syllabus: A syllabus based on the notion that learners can acquire language by processing holistic ‘chunks’ of language and then analyzing the language into its component parts, rather than having the language broken down for them. Topic and content-based syllabuses are analytic in nature.Assessment: The process of determining what learners can or cannot do. Curriculum-related assessment attempts to link learning outcomes to instruc- tion.Audiolingualism: A language teaching method based on the behaviourist notion that learning a language is a process of habit formation.Authenticity: Text authenticity refers to instances of spoken and written lan- guage that were produced in the course of genuine communication. Task authenticity refers to tasks that closely mirror communication in the world outside the classroom.Background knowledge: The real-world knowledge possessed by individuals about a particular subject.Bottom-up approach: An approach to teaching, learning and using language based on the processing of small units of language and then proceeding to larger units.Clarification request: A conversational management strategy used by a listener to check that he or she has correctly comprehended the speaker’s last utter- ance. A: Make a right on Fifteenth Street. B: Did you say Fiftieth or Fifteenth?Closed task: A task in which there is only one correct answer.Communicative activity: A pair or groupwork activity that involves the manip- ulation of a limited number of structures but which allows for genuine infor- mation exchange.Communicative competence: The ability to deploy linguistic, interpersonal and sociocultural knowledge effectively for communicative purposes.Communicative language teaching: A philosophical approach to language teach- ing covering a range of methodological approaches which share a focus on helping learners communicate meaningfully in the target language.212
  • GlossaryCompetency-based instruction: One of a number of approaches to instruction in which the curriculum is couched in terms of sets of learner performance.Comprehensible input: Messages addressed to the learner that may contain phonological, lexical and grammatical features that are beyond the learner’s current processing capacity, but that are understandable due to the surround- ing context in which they are uttered.Comprehensible output: The production of spoken output that is comprehen- sible to the listener. In L2 situations, signals of incomprehension from the lis- tener may prompt a speaker to rephrase an utterance to make it comprehensible. This process is hypothesized to aid acquisition.Comprehension: Processes through which an individual makes sense of spoken and written language.Comprehension check: A conversation strategy used by a speaker to ensure that his or her interlocutor has correctly understood. A: You need to thread the string through that hole there – you follow? B: Uh-huh.Confirmation check: A strategy used by a listener to confirm that he or she has correctly understood the speaker. A: You need to put the string through here. B: Through here? A: That’s right.Consciousness-raising: Processes and techniques for making learners aware of salient features of the linguistic system.Constructivism: A philosophical approach arguing that knowledge is socially constructed rather than having its own independent existence.Content-based instruction: An approach to language teaching in which the syl- labus is organized according to content from other subjects on the curriculum, such as history or geography.Convergent tasks: Tasks in which learners are meant to converge on a single correct answer.Creative language use: Use of language in which learners have to use pre-learned words and structures in novel ways.Curriculum: A very broad concept incorporating the elements and processes involved in planning, implementing and evaluating learning.Data (see Input data)Declarative knowledge: Knowledge that can be stated (as opposed to demon- strated). Being able to state a grammatical rule is an example of declarative knowledge.Deductive learning: An instructional process that begins with a statement of rules and principles and then requires learners to apply these to particular examples and instances.Developmental hypothesis: This hypothesis suggests that grammatical structures can be placed on a continuum from ‘early acquired’ to ‘late acquired’, and that this developmental sequence cannot be altered by instruction.Dialogue: A controlled conversation between two or more participants designed to illustrate and practise one or more language points (these may be grammat- ical, functional, lexical or phonological). 213
  • GlossaryDivergent tasks: Tasks that encourage a range of possible responses and not a single correct answer (as is the case with convergent tasks).Evaluation: Processes and procedures for gathering information about a pro- gram or curriculum for purposes of improvement.Exercise (see Language exercise)Experiential learning: In experiential learning, learners’ immediate, personal experiences are taken as the point of departure for the learning process.First language: An individual’s native tongue.Focus on form: An approach to instruction which provides a systematic focus on language systems (principally, but not exclusively, the grammatical system) within a communicative context. Some researchers, for example Long, argue that this focus should be incidental, and appropriately timed.Focused tasks: Tasks that are designed to stimulate the production of particular linguistic forms.Functional syllabus: A syllabus organized according to language functions.Functions: The general purposes for which people use language, for example socializing, asking for directions, returning an unsatisfactory purchase.Genre: A staged, goal-oriented, socially constructed written or communicative event.Goals: The broad, general purposes behind a program, course or curricu- lum.Grammar: The study of how form, meaning and use work together to create well-formed sentences.Group work: Tasks, activities and exercises carried out by learners working in small, co-operative groups.Humanism: A philosophical movement predicated on the importance of inter- personal relationships and the importance of individual development.Humanistic psychology: A branch of psychology based on humanism.Inductive learning: A process of deriving principles or rules from instances or examples.Information gap: Tasks in which there is a mismatch between the information possessed by different learners in a pair or group-work task. In some cases, one student has all the information (a one-way task); in others, each student has his or her own information (a two-way task).Input data: The aural and written texts through which learners gain access to the language.Interlanguage: Language produced by learners in the course of acquiring a second language. It often contains its own ‘rules’ that deviate from the target language, but that are internally consistent.Interpersonal language: Language used mainly for socializing (in contrast with transactional language, which is language used for obtaining goods and ser- vices, and aesthetic language which is used for enjoyment).Jigsaw tasks: Tasks involving learners working in groups combining different pieces of information to complete the task.Language exercise: A procedure in which the aim is to give learners controlled practice at some aspect of the linguistic system (this might be phonological, lexical or grammatical).214
  • GlossaryLearner-centredness: A philosophical approach to instruction in which content and learning procedures are based on data about the learners for whom the course is designed and, where feasible, on data supplied by learners themselves. The term is also used to describe courses in which learners learn through doing.Learning strategies: The mental and communicative processes that learners deploy in mastering a second language.Learning style: A learner’s general orientation towards learning.Macroskills: The four skills of listening, speaking, reading and writing.Meaningful drill: A language drill designed to manipulate a particular structure, but which also requires students to provide meaningful responses (as opposed to a mechanical drill, which can be completed without the student under- standing the meaning of what is said).Method: A set of procedures for classroom action derived from a set of beliefs about the nature of language and learning. The procedures are usually meant to apply uniformly to all learners regardless of their needs, interests or profi- ciency level.Methodology: The subcomponent of the curriculum concerned with selecting, sequencing and justifying learning experiences, as well as the study of the theoretical and empirical bases of such procedures.Morpheme: The smallest meaningful unit into which a language can be ana- lyzed.Natural approach: A language teaching method purporting to be based on the principles underlying first language acquisition.Natural order hypothesis: An hypothesis that grammatical items will be acquired in a predetermined order that cannot be changed by instruction. (See also Developmental hypothesis.)Needs analysis: Sets of procedures for determining language content and teach- ing procedures for specified groups of learners.Negotiation of meaning: The interactional work done by participants in a con- versation to ensure mutual understanding. (See also comprehension check, confirmation check, clarification request.)Notions: General concepts expressed through language, such as time, duration and quantity.Notional syllabuses: A syllabus arranged according to sets of notions.Objective (see performance objective).Open task: A task in which there is no single correct answer.Opinion-gap tasks: Tasks involving identifying and articulating personal atti- tudes, feelings or opinions.Pedagogical grammar: A grammar designed for teaching purposes.Performance-based approaches: Approaches to pedagogy in which content is specified in terms of observable language performance.Performance objective: A formal statement of what learners will be able to do (as opposed, for example, to what they will know) at the end of a course of instruction. Formal objectives contain three elements: a task element setting out what learners will do, a conditions element setting out the circumstances under which the task will be performed, and a standards element articulating how well the learner is to perform. 215
  • GlossaryPragmatics: The study of how individuals use language to achieve particular communicative ends.Procedural knowledge: Knowledge of how to use language to get things done. Procedural knowledge manifests itself as skills, being a matter of ‘knowing how’ rather than ‘knowing that’.Procedures: The part of a task specifying what operations learners will perform.Productive skills: This term is used to refer to speaking and writing.Proficiency: General language ability.Psycholinguistics: The study of the mental processes and mechanisms underly- ing language acquisition and use.Realia: Items from the world outside the classroom used in language teaching.Reasoning-gap tasks: Tasks requiring learners to derive new information from given information through cognitive processes such as inferencing, deducing and practical reasoning.Receptive skills: This term is used to refer to listening and reading.Reproductive language: Language produced by learners in imitation of models provided by a teacher or by pedagogical materials.Roles: The social and psychological personas adopted by or imposed upon teachers and learners in the classroom.Rote learning: Learning through repetition with minimal attention to meaning.Schema theory: A theory based on the notion that mental frameworks created from past experience guide learning and action.Second language acquisition: Processes underlying the development of a second and subsequent languages.Settings: The situations in which learning takes place.Sociolinguistics: The interpersonal and social processes mediating language learning and use.Strategies (see Learning strategies)Syllabus: The subcomponent of a curriculum that specifies and sequences lan- guage and experiential content.Syllabus design: The art and craft of selecting, sequencing and integrating lan- guage content.Syntax: The study of the rules that govern the formation of grammatical structures.Synthetic syllabus: A syllabus based on the listing of discrete phonological, lexical, grammatical and functional elements.Systemic–functional linguistics: A theory of language that attempts to establish formal relationships between grammar, meaning and use.Task: A communicative event having a non-linguistic outcome.Task-based language teaching: An approach to language teaching organized around tasks rather than language structures.Teachability / learnability hypothesis: According to this hypothesis, grammati- cal structures will be acquired, and should be taught, in an order that mirrors difficulty as determined by the processing demands made on the learner’s working memory. The order of items determined by processing complexity will differ from the order determined by grammatical complexity. For example, third person ‘s’ is simple from the perspective of grammatical description, but complex in processing terms.216
  • GlossaryTop-down processing: The use of background knowledge and knowledge of the world to make sense of spoken and written language.Topic-based instruction: An approach to instruction based on experiential topics.Unfocused tasks: Tasks that are not intended to elicit a particular grammatical structure.Transactional language: Language used to obtain goods and services. This use of language contrasts with interpersonal language. 217
  • Author indexAnderson, A. 71, 86, 172 Hover, D. 48Asher, J. 177 Hudson, T. 147Bailey, K. M. 76, 146, 166, 178 Hull, J. 103Baker, D. 141 Ingram, D. 142Basturkmen, H. 81, 83 Johnson, M. 116, 118, 121Benson, P.15, 65 Johnston, M. 10, 114Berns, M. 154 Kanagy, R. 84Bley-Vroman, R. 95, 97 Kemp, J. 159, 160Bransford, J. 116 Knowles, M. 178Breen, M. 3, 8, 15, 67 Kohonen, V. 12, 13Brindley, G. 85, 123, 143, 147, 148, 153 Kolb, D. 12Brinton, D. 10, 52, 132 Krashen, S. 9, 21, 76, 77, 78, 79, 93, 177Brosnan, D. 51 Kumaravadivelu, B. 22Brown, G. 86 Lai, J. 62, 63Brown, J. D. 147, 172 Lamb, C. 166Brown, S. 51 Lantolf, J. 7, 94Brumfit, C. 56 Larsen-Freeman, D. 22Brundage, D. 178 Legutke, M. 72Burns, A. 10 Littlewood, W. 9Burt, M. 76 Loewen, H. 81, 83Bygate, M. 3 Long M. H. 2, 9, 22, 30, 33, 80, 83Candlin, C. N. 40, 41, 53, 67, 86, 123, 128, Loschky, L. 95, 97 168, 173 Lynch, T. 71, 172Clark, J. 42, 43, 53 MacKeracher, D. 178Clarke, J. 68 Martyn, E. 33, 80, 81, 82, 83, 88, 89, 90Cram, B. 149, 151, 152 McCarthy, M.69Crookes, G. 30 Menasche, L. 51Curran, C. 177 Mohan, B. 131, 132Curtis, A. 166 Morris, A. 48, 52Derewianka, B. 9, 10 Murphy, T. 168Doughty, C. 9, 22, 84 Nelson, J. 144Dulay, H. 76 Nitko, A.J. 147Edelhoff, C. 53, 128 Norris, J. 142, 145, 146Ellis, R. 3, 11, 79, 81, 83, 98, 99, 114 Nunan, D. 13, 14, 15, 30, 33, 44, 50, 51,Falodun, J. 84 61, 65, 67, 72, 76, 114, 119, 121, 123,Feez, S. 10 155, 158, 160, 161, 166, 178Forey, G. 44 Ostrander, S. 177Foster, S. 87, 161 Oxford, R. 15, 65Fotos, S. 99 Pattison, P. 57Glaser, R. 147 Pearson, D. 118, 121Grellet, F. 61 Pica, T. 80, 84Genesee, F. 153, 159 Pienemann, M. 114Gronland, N. 139 Pill, J. 65, 67, 72Halliday, M. A. K. 9, 19, 41, 42 Platt, J. 113Hammond, J. 9, 10 Porter, P. 49, 53Hatch, E. 79 Prabhu, N. 57218
  • Author indexProctor, S. 103 Stewart-Dore, N. 48, 52Reid, J. 65 Strevens, P. 72Ribe, R. 133, 134, 135, 150 Swaffar, J. 168Richards, J. C. 2, 42, 58, 64, 103, 113, 155, Swain, M. 3, 9, 10, 80, 90 167, 177 Terrell, T. 21, 177Roberts, J. 49, 53 Thomson, I. 65Robinson, C. 117, 118 Toperoff, D. 159, 160Robinson, P. 9, 86, 88, 123, 141 Tyler, R. 4, 5Rodgers, T. 64, 167, 177 Upshur, J. 153, 159Ross, S. 141 Ur, P. 98Rubin, J. 65 Van Ek, J. 44Rutherford, W. 30, 33 Vidal, N. 133, 134, 135, 150Ryle, G. 7 Wajnryb, R. 110, 156Samuda, V. 107, 108, 109 Walsh, J. 69Savignon, S. 7, 8, 10, 154 Weber, H. 113Schroeder, L. 177 Widdowson, H. G. 53, 54Shavelson, R. 40, 168 Wilkins, D. 10, 11Shehadeh, A. 81 Williams, J. 9, 22Shilcock, R. 86 Willing, K. 15Silberstein, S. 53, 68 Willis, D & J, 3, 4, 97, 138Skehan, P. 3, 56, 86, 87, 88, 90, 123, 161 Wong, L. 160Snow, A. 52 Wright, T. 40, 41, 71Stenhouse, L. 5 Yule, G. 86, 172Stern, D. 40, 168 219
  • Subject indexAccuracy versus fluency 56, 161 Competency-based instruction, 213 see alsoActivity – see Communicative activity Performance-based instructionAesthetic macrofunction 212 Comprehensible input see Input hypothesisAcquisition Comprehensible output see Interaction definition of 212 hypothesis versus learning 77–78 Comprehension 213Active learning 36–37 Comprehension check 213 see alsoAssessment 138–164 Negotiation of meaning criteria for assessing learner performance Consciousness-raising 98–100, 213 161–163 Constructivism 213 definition of 212 see also Experiential learning versus evaluation 138 Content-based instruction 131–133, 213 indirect versus direct 139–141 Controlled practice 31–32 norm-referenced versus criterion- Creative language use 33, 37, 213 referenced 146–147 Curriculum system-referenced versus performance- definition of 213 referenced 141 development 4–6 proficiency versus achievement 142–143 Declarative knowledge 213 purposes of 147–148 Developing units of work 31–35 self-assessment 149–152 Developmental hypothesis 213 techniques for 153–161 Dialogue 213 versus teaching 143–145 Diaries (for learning and assessment)Australian Language Levels (ALL) 42–43 157–159Audiolingualism 212 Difficulty – see Task difficulty see also Language teaching methodsAuthenticity Enabling skills 22–23, 93–111 of data 47–52, 212 English for Specific Purposes (ESP) 7 of task 53–54, 212 Evaluation 214 ExerciseBackground knowledge 212 language exercise 214Bottom-up approach 212 versus task 23 Experiential learning 12 –13, 214Clarification request 212 see also Negotiation of meaning First language 214Classroom discourse Focus on form 9, 93–111, 214 examples of 68, 69, 81, 82, 106–107, Functions 108, 109 definition of 214 observation schedule 156 graded 124–125Common European Framework 44–46, versus tasks 29–30 210–11Communicative activity 24, 212 Functional syllabus 214Communicative competence 212Communicative language teaching 6–10, Genre 214 212 Goals 41–47, 214 strong versus weak interpretations 9 ‘Good’ language learners 65–67220
  • Subject indexGrading 114–118 Objective 215 learner factors in 118–122 see also performance-based teaching activities for the four macroskills 202–209Grammar Output – see Interaction hypothesis definition of 214 pedagogical 215 Pair and group work 71–72, 214 within TBLT 93–111 example of 20–21, 23, 34, 31, 55, 57, 95,Group work – see Pair and group work 96, 100–101, 105–105, 122, 126, 129 131, 133, 134, 135, 144, 145–146,Humanism 214 155Humanistic psychology 214 Pedagogical grammar 215 PerformanceInductive learning 214 -based assessment 161–164Information gap 128–130, 214 -based instruction 44, 215 see also negotiation of meaning, pair and objective 215 group work – examples of scales 153–154Input 47–52 see also Standards movement data 214 Policy and practices xiii–xiv, 13–14 grading 114–118 Portfolios (for learning and assessment) hypothesis 79, 212 159–161Interlanguage 214 Practice – see controlled practiceInteraction hypothesis 79–80 Pragmatics 216Interpersonal language 214 Procedural knowledge 216Jigsaw tasks 214 language 100–101 see also Information gap tasks Procedures 52–56, 216Journals (for learning and assessment) Productive skills 216 157–159 Proficiency 216 Project-based instruction 133–135Language Psycholinguistic processing 125–126 teaching methods 167–168, 181–186 Psycholinguistics 216 exercise 214 Realia 216Learning logs (for learning and assessment) see also Authenticity of data 157–159 Receptive skills 216Learning strategies Recycling 30, 36 definition of 215 Reflective learning 37–38 see also Strategies Reproductive language use 32, 37, 216Learning style 215 Role plays – see Pair and group work –Learner-centredness 14–16, 215 examples ofLearner roles 14–16, 64–65 Roles definition 216Macroskills 202–209, 215 learner 64–70Macrofunctions 19 teacher 64–70Meaningful drill 215 Rote learning 216Metacommunicative tasks 97Method 215 Scaffolding 35, 69 See also Language teaching methods SchemaMethodology 215 building 31Morpheme 215 theory 216 Second language acquisition 11, 76–91,Natural approach 215 93–111, 216Natural order hypothesis 78–79, 215 Sequencing 113–135Needs analysis 215 Settings 70–73, 216Negotiation of meaning 79–85, 215 Sociolinguistics 216Notions 215 Standards movement 46–47Notional syllabuses 215 Strategies 59–64, 66–67 221
  • Subject index affective 61 dependency 35–36 cognitive 59–60 examples of 20–21, 23, 34, 31, 55, 57, creative 61 95, 96, 100–101, 105–105, 122, 126, interpersonal 60–61 129–131, 133, 134, 135, 144, 145–146, learner roles 65 155, 187–194, 195–201 and reading 61–63 features 84–85Syllabus 216 focused versus unfocused 94–98, 214,Syllabus design 217 analytical approaches 10–12, 212 framework 19–25 definition of 216 versus functions 29–30 considerations in TBLT 25–31 open 215 process approaches 8 opinion-gap 215 synthetic approaches 10–12, 216 pedagogical 2, 19–21Systemic-functional linguistics 216 pedagogical sequence for 31–35Syntax 216 principles for TBLT 35–38 production (for assessment) 154–154Task real-word 2, 53 versus activity 24 reasoning-gap 216 assessment of 138–164 research 76–91, 93–111 -based language teaching 216 target - see real-world versus exercise 23 types 56–64, 102–103 chaining 125–128 Teachability / learnability hypothesis 216 closed 212 Teacher cognitive demand features 88–90 -created tasks 175–177 components 40–73 education 166–177 continuity 125–128 roles 64–65, 68–70 convergent 213 Top-down processing 217 see also Schema criteria for evaluating 169–170, 173–175 theory definitions 1–4, 216 Topic-based / theme-based instruction 131, difficulty 85–90, 171–172 217 divergent 214 Transactional language 217222